Democrats claim win in Pennsylvania 'on the Trump agenda'
Canonsburg: Republicans have sounded alarm bells after Democrats claimed victory in a Pennsylvania congressional election seen as a referendum on US President Donald Trump's performance, although the final vote result remained officially too close to call.
In an ominous sign for Trump's Republicans eight months before national midterm elections, moderate Democrat Conor Lamb led conservative Republican Rick Saccone by a fraction of a percentage point in the race for the seat in the US House of Representatives. The final result may not be available until Friday.
The election is historically seen as an easy win for Republicans. Trump actively campaigned for Saccone, who started the race ahead of Lamb in a district Trump won by almost 20 points in the 2016 presidential election.
Republican Speaker Paul Ryan called the election a "wake-up call" in a meeting with Republican House members on Wednesday.
Lamb led Saccone by 516 votes on Wednesday after absentee ballots were counted. Counting of provisional ballots, those cast by voters whose registration requires extra confirmation, was to begin on Friday.
Republicans have not conceded the race and were not ruling out a recount or other legal action, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said.
House Republicans called the race unique, noting Lamb, 33, a US Marines veteran, had distanced himself from his party's leaders and staked out positions to the right of many Democrats.
"I don't think you'll see another candidate like Lamb," said Republican Representative Chris Collins of New York.
Representative Mike Kelly, who represents Pennsylvania's 3rd District, said Lamb was "more like a Republican".
"I thought Conor Lamb ran a very good race because he ran on the Trump agenda," Kelly said.
The patchwork of small towns, farms and Pittsburgh suburbs that make up Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district is so Republican that Democrats did not even field candidates in the previous two US House elections.
Saccone, 60, a former Air Force counter-intelligence officer, had described himself as "Trump before Trump was Trump" and led the race by more than 10 percentage points in January.
Trump held two events in the district during the campaign. Last week, he announced tariffs on imported steel that had been expected to appeal to voters in a state known for its steel industry.