Republican wins special House election in Pennsylvania

Republican wins special House election in Pennsylvania

Fred Keller, a Republican state representative, beat Democrat Marc Friedenberg in the race to represent Pennsylvania's 12th District on Tuesday.

Keller’s victory means that the north-central Pennsylvania district will remain in Republican hands after former Rep. Tom MarinoThomas (Tom) Anthony MarinoWhy the North Carolina special election has national implications The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Republican wins special House election in Pennsylvania MORE (R-Pa.) stepped down in January, less than one month into his fifth term in office.

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 The 12th District still tilts heavily in the GOP’s favor, unlike several districts in Pennsylvania that became more competitive for Democrats after the state Supreme Court ordered the state’s congressional lines to be redrawn.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE would have carried the district by 36 points in 2016 had the state’s current congressional boundaries been in place that year, and Keller outspent Friedenberg by more than $140,000, according to federal filings.

Keller also got a last-minute boost on Monday when Trump held a rally in Montoursville, inside the 12th District, to campaign with the GOP hopeful.

Speaking to supporters there, Trump declared that the special election was tantamount to a “referendum” on his presidency.

“Get out tomorrow,” Trump urged supporters. “It’s a little bit of a referendum.”

Friedenberg, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, ran against Marino for the seat in 2018. He lost that election by more than 30 points.

While the national parties have largely stayed out of the 12th District special election, Keller’s campaign tested some of the messaging that Republicans are hoping to use in 2020 as they look to retake control of the House and maintain their hold on the Senate.

On the campaign trail, the GOP state representative accused Friedenberg of championing socialism in the same vein as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal Gabbard says she won't participate in next debate even if she qualifies Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump tops list of most tweeted about politicians in 2019 Buttigieg campaign says 2000 people attended Iowa rally Trump keeps Obama immigration program, and Democrats blast him MORE (D-N.Y.) while deriding liberal proposals such as the Green New Deal and "Medicare for All."

For his part, Friedenberg backs those proposals but rarely discussed them in his campaign, focusing instead on a more poll-tested message including issues such as health care and infrastructure.