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Allegheny

Conor Lamb says he wouldn't support Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats

Wes Venteicher
| Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, 11:03 a.m.
Conor Lamb greets supporters following his selection by 18th Congressional District Democrats to run in a March 13 special election to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy.
Wes Venteicher | Tribune-Review
Conor Lamb greets supporters following his selection by 18th Congressional District Democrats to run in a March 13 special election to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy.
Lamb
Lamb

Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb said Monday he wouldn't vote to give Nancy Pelosi another term as U.S. House Minority Leader if he wins a March special election.

Lamb, 33, who is running to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, said both parties in the House need new leadership because they have failed to adequately address the nation's heroin epidemic or what Lamb called its “crumbling infrastructure.”

“My take is, if these people have been around for several years and they haven't solved these problems that have been hanging around, it's time for someone new to step up and get it done,” he said.

Lamb's announcement addresses Republican efforts to tie him to Pelosi in a political climate that seems to favor outsiders over members of the establishment. Immediately after Democrats made him their nominee at a Nov. 19 meeting, the state GOP issued a statement calling him Pelosi's “handpicked candidate” and has repeated the claim since.

Lamb said that Pelosi had not been involved in the race before the nomination, and that he had met her only in passing just before Christmas.

Pelosi's office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Lamb faces state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, in the March 13 special election. The winner will represent about 707,000 people in parts of Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties.

“I think it's brilliant on his part, because Nancy Pelosi is so unpopular,” said Philip Harold, a Robert Morris University political science professor.

Harold said Lamb would lose out on any fundraising help Pelosi might have provided, but his rejection of her might appeal to “Blue Dog Democrats” in the district who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after voting for Democrats in previous elections. And Democratic voters who support Pelosi are likely to vote for Lamb whether or not he supports her, he said.

“Why not run against Trump and run against Pelosi,” he said. “That's just the kind of mixing it up that I think works in Pennsylvania.”

Saccone is a conservative who likens himself to President Trump. Lamb said he didn't have a specific replacement for Pelosi in mind.

“I would like to see leadership that gets serious about the heroin epidemic. So far, what we've done is declare it to be a national epidemic. I'd like to see that prioritized. I'd also like to see us get serious about infrastructure,” he said.

Members of the U.S. House select leaders in blind votes after fall elections. Pelosi won re-election as leader in November 2016 with about two-thirds of the votes cast by party members.

Lamb's announcement follows news last week that a political action committee backed by U.S. House Republican leadership is opening two offices in Southwestern Pennsylvania and that another PAC backed by the billionaire Ricketts family announced a $1 million ad buy in the district boosting Saccone.

Lamb responded by saying he has support of unions and volunteers.

The winner of the March special election will serve until January 2019, when Murphy's term would have ended. Murphy resigned in October after reports that the pro-life congressman asked his mistress to get an abortion during a pregnancy scare.

Voters in the district have heavily favored Republican candidates in recent presidential elections, but Democrats see an opening in the district due to Trump's low approval rating. More voters are registered Democratic in the district than are registered Republican.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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