Sewickley’s Keith Rothfus loses to Conor Lamb in congressional race

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 | 10:21 AM

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Sewickley resident, lost a bid to represent people in a new congressional district against U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb in the nation’s only congressional race pitting two incumbents against each other

Lamb, of Mt. Lebanon, rolled to a commanding victory Tuesday against Rothfus.

The district includes Beaver County, part of Cranberry in Butler County and about half of Allegheny County, including suburbs north, west and south of Pittsburgh, including all of the Sewickley valley.. Pennsylvania’s congressional district map was redrawn early this year after the state Supreme Court ruled the former map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

Lamb had collected 56.2 percent of the votes counted in the new 17th Congressional District compared with Rothfus’ 43.7 percent, according to unofficial tallies.

Lamb declared victory just after 10 p.m.

“We did it again. You did it again,” Lamb told supporters at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Cranberry. “I just received a call from Congressman Rothfus. I want to thank Keith for the call and a great campaign.”

Lamb thanked supporters, including organized labor, grassroots organizations and young people, and credited them with knocking on 350,000 doors during the campaign. He said voters want protections for Social Security and Medicare and health care benefits that protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“We will protect what you earn,” Lamb said. “We will protect your health and pensions. We will protect your children. We will do all of that while protecting this planet. It’s your government. It’s time to make it work for you again.”

Rothfus conceded a short time later. He started by asking supporters to give Lamb a round of applause.

“We have turned this country around over the last two years in a way that folks in Washington said was not possible,” Rothfus said to cheers from several dozen supporters at Sunny Jim’s restaurant in Kilbuck. “Let that fight continue, and may God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.””

Lamb, 34, woke up on Election Day with polls showing him with a double-digit lead over Rothfus, 56. Allegheny and Beaver counties reported heavy voter turnouts for the pivotal midterm election. Election officials said the turnout was more characteristic of a presidential race.

Lamb portrayed himself as a moderate willing to cross party lines. He did that in September when he voted to make individual tax cuts permanent and double the standard deduction and Child Tax Credit. The provisions were set to expire in 2025.

The former Marine Corps officer and federal prosecutor drew national attention earlier this year when he defeated Republican Rick Saccone in a special election to replace U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy in the 18th Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, the longest-tenured member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, said a key to the race was Lamb’s exposure to voters gained through the rare experience of running in two congressional races in the same year.

“This has been like an eight-month campaign for him,” Doyle said. “He’s in a centrist kind of district. He was the right Democrat in the right district. He’s going to be a good representative for them.”

Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Eileen Kelly called Lamb a “young rising star in the national league.”

From Jan. 1 through Oct. 17, Lamb raised $8.9 million to Rothfus’ $2.9 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. Outside groups poured another $9.7 million into the race, with about $8 million being spent on ads opposing Lamb or supporting Rothfus, the Center for Responsive Politics reported.

Rothfus, a supporter of President Trump’s policies, including last year’s tax cuts, touted the nation’s growing economy and decreasing jobless rate as reasons for voters to re-elect him for a fourth two-year term. He said the tax cuts were necessary to ensure continued economic growth and shore up Social Security and Medicare.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.