House election too close to call with candidates separated by couple hundred votes

Follow Wednesday’s updates here: Conor Lamb clings to a narrow lead in over Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania special election

MT. LEBANON, Pa. — A special election for a U.S. House seat was too close to call late Tuesday as Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone were separated by several hundred votes in a race that had become a test of President Trump’s political clout.

With thousands of absentee and provisional ballots outstanding, Lamb earned 49.8 percent of votes cast and Saccone earned 49.6 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press, which said the race was too close to project a winner.

A recount is possible if the candidates are separated by 0.5 percentage points or less.

Shortly before midnight, Saccone told his supporters that “it’s not over yet.”

Democrat Lamb and Republican Saccone are competing in Pennsylvania’s 18th District.

A little more than an hour later, Lamb took the stage at his party in Canonsburg to declare victory.

“Well, it took a little longer than we thought, but we did it,” said Lamb. “You did it! You did it!”

While the number of outstanding absentee ballots is larger than the gap between Lamb and Saccone, Democrats ended election night confident that Saccone would not win them by a large enough margin to pull ahead. The National Republican Congressional Committee said it was confident of a Saccone victory “after every legal vote is counted.”

Lamb, 33, had waged an energetic campaign in the district that Trump carried by nearly 20 points in 2016 but that opened up after the Republican incumbent was felled by scandal. Republicans cited that scandal, along with the lackluster campaign of their nominee, Rick Saccone, to minimize the closeness of the race. The district itself will disappear this year, thanks to a court decision that struck down a Republican-drawn map.

But led by the White House, Republicans had elevated the race to a high-stakes referendum on the president and the GOP. Trump made two appearances with Saccone, including a Saturday-night rally in the district, and his son Donald Trump Jr. stumped with Saccone on Monday. The president repeatedly linked his brand to Saccone.

“The Economy is raging, at an all time high, and is set to get even better,” the president tweeted on Tuesday morning. “Jobs and wages up. Vote for Rick Saccone and keep it going!”

Republican campaign committees and super PACs spent $10.7 million to help Saccone, more than five times as much as their Democratic rivals, according to Federal Election Commission records filed Monday night.

Thanks to the court’s scrambling of the congressional map, both Lamb and Saccone may well become candidates in new districts for the November midterm election before a winner is declared in this 18th Congressional District race. Candidates must collect and file 1,000 signatures for those races by March 20 — the day that some overseas ballots in Tuesday’s race will be counted.

The district, a stretch of suburbs and small towns that was drawn to elect a Republican, was not the sort of place that Democrats had been expected to make competitive this year. Lamb’s coalition pulled together suburban liberals, wayward Republicans and traditional Democrats who had drifted from the party on cultural issues.

The tight race added to Republican woes on a day that began with the surprise firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a string of related dismissals. Republicans who…

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