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Allegheny

Kellyanne Conway stumps for Saccone at Green Tree event

Natasha Lindstrom
| Thursday, March 8, 2018, 11:09 p.m.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, urged Western Pennsylvanians to vote for Republican Rick Saccone (seated second from left) in a special election Tuesday  during the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's Spirit of Lincoln dinner fundraiser at the DoubleTree Hilton in Green Tree on Thursday, March 8, 2018.
NATASHA LINDSTROM / TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, urged Western Pennsylvanians to vote for Republican Rick Saccone (seated second from left) in a special election Tuesday during the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's Spirit of Lincoln dinner fundraiser at the DoubleTree Hilton in Green Tree on Thursday, March 8, 2018.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, urged Western Pennsylvanians to vote for Republican Rick Saccone in a special election Tuesday  during the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's Spirit of Lincoln dinner fundraiser at the DoubleTree Hilton in Green Tree on Thursday, March 8, 2018. Saccone faces Democrat Conor Lamb in an unexpectedly close race to represent the state's 18th Congressional District.
NATASHA LINDSTROM / TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, urged Western Pennsylvanians to vote for Republican Rick Saccone in a special election Tuesday during the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's Spirit of Lincoln dinner fundraiser at the DoubleTree Hilton in Green Tree on Thursday, March 8, 2018. Saccone faces Democrat Conor Lamb in an unexpectedly close race to represent the state's 18th Congressional District.

Kellyanne Conway voiced her ardent support for U.S. congressional candidate Rick Saccone during a brief visit to Western Pennsylvania on Thursday, five days before a highly anticipated special election that has national GOP leaders sweating.

Conway, counselor to President Trump, joined several of the state's top GOP leaders in urging a ballroom packed with more than 500 of the region's top Republican donors and supporters to spend their weekend campaigning for Saccone — a Trump-endorsed Republican pitted in an unexpectedly close race against Democrat Conor Lamb.

She urged each attendee to spread the message to at least five family members and friends who live in the 18th Congressional District.

“If they like the fact that the stock market is at record highs, if they like the fact unemployment is at record lows ... if you like the fact that small-business confidence, consumer confidence, manufacturing confidence are all on the rise, then the vote is clear: Vote for Rick Saccone,” Conway told the crowd gathered at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Green Tree. “Because Rick Saccone is person who is the reliable vote for all of that, and that is going to matter. There is too much at stake.”

The event was the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's annual Spirit of Lincoln dinner fundraiser.

Though Conway credited a win for Saccone as a win for Trump and Republicans at large, she repeatedly emphasized that she was speaking on a vacation day in her “personal capacity.”

Her remarks came two days after a federal watchdog announced that Conway violated the federal law prohibiting government officials from using their positions to influence political campaigns.

The Office of Special Counsel, which is unrelated to special prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, says Conway violated the Hatch Act twice last year when she spoke out in support of Republican Roy Moore and against his Democratic rival, Sen. Doug Jones, in the Alabama Senate race.

The White House disputed the independent agency's findings, arguing Conway had “simply expressed the president's obvious position.”

During her roughly 20-minute speech Thursday, Conway painted the race as a binary choice between Saccone — a pro-life conservative aligned with Trump on issues such as tax reform, border control and deregulating private industry — and Lamb, whom she dismissed as a Democrat obstructionist who threatens to undo Trump's progress in the presidency thus far.

“Rick Saccone, the nominee, belongs to a party that stands for and delivers on historic tax cuts, and he'll be a reliable vote for the next big tax cut package,” added Conway. “I'm sure of it.”

The event also featured U.S. Reps. Keith Rothfus and Lou Barletta, the latter of whom is running for U.S. Senate; gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner; state House Speaker Mike Turzai; and Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly.

Just about every speaker spoke about the importance of Republicans turning out next week for Saccone.

“The eyes of the country are on Western Pennsylvania,” state GOP Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio said. “We need everybody helping this weekend, and I implore you to do that. Rick Saccone is our candidate ... and it's going to be a great, great night Tuesday when we win that race. Go get 'em, Rick.”

Saccone delivered the final and shortest remarks after taking the podium to a standing ovation.

“You know our country is in peril. That's why I say it's very important that we send the most qualified and experienced person to Washington, D.C., to handle the pressing problems that are facing our nation today,” Saccone said. He touted his 20 years of experience in the Air Force as well as work in international diplomacy and affairs.

“I don't think Southwestern Pennsylvania needs another Downtown liberal in Congress,” Saccone continued. “We need somebody that's going to go down there and fight for us, someone that has our values imbued in them. But I need your help.”

A poll released Monday by Boston's Emerson College shows Lamb, 33, of Mt. Lebanon with a 3 percentage-point lead over Saccone, 60, of Elizabeth Township in Tuesday's special election.

They are vying to replace former Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned from his seat in October amid an extramarital scandal.

“We need to do everything we can to turn out, because the media keeps telling us that the other side is more invigorated, that the enthusiasm is higher than ours. I don't believe it as I look around,” Saccone said. “It's critical, because we've got a country to save, and I think you all know that.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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