Conor Lamb wins House race in Pennsylvania

Conor Lamb wins House race in Pennsylvania
© Greg Nash

Democrat Conor Lamb won a full term in the House on Tuesday, defeating GOP Rep. Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Pennsylvania New Members 2019 MORE in the only national race pitting two incumbents against one another. 

The outcome was not a surprise. The Keystone State’s newly-drawn 17th District made for steeper terrain for Republicans, and GOP campaign operatives started yanking money from the district in September, leaving the three-term Rothfus to fend for himself against the tougher map. Analysts at The Cook Political Report put the district in the “likely Democratic” column heading into the polls.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lamb’s victory advances his position as a rising star in the party. A Marine and former federal prosecutor, the 34-year-old Lamb became a national figure when he defied the odds to win a March special election in the heavily conservative 18th District.

Republicans have repeatedly tried to tie Lamb to Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden blasts Trump, demands he release transcript of call with foreign leader Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week MORE (D-Calif.), arguing that he’s simply too liberal for western Pennsylvania. Lamb has responded by distancing himself from the liberal Democratic leader, vowing to oppose her bid for Speaker next year.

On the fundraising front, the contest was never close. Lamb raised almost $8.8 million dollars for the cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, far outpacing Rothfus’s haul of $2.9 million. 

Rothfus, 56, has been a reliable, if low-key, conservative presence in his three terms on Capitol Hill.

In the end, his biggest challenge was the newly-drawn map. 

Rothfus currently represents Pennsylvania's 12th District, while Lamb occupies the 18th. But a January decision by the state’s Supreme Court found the district map to be unconstitutional. The court rejected GOP appeals and redrew the lines ahead of the May primaries. The changes shifted the political landscape in Lamb’s direction: although Trump had won Rothfus’s 12th District by 21 points, his margin in the newly drawn 17th was less than 3 points.