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College voters politically minded in wake of special election

Many local Saint Vincent students live in the Eighteenth District, and were eligible to vote in the cutthroat special election.

Democrat Conor Lamb won the close election that took place on Tuesday, March 13. Lamb beat Republican candidate Rick Saccone by a reported 627 votes.

The race was so close that results were not finalized until midday on Wednesday, though Lamb declared victory late Tuesday evening.

Pennsylvania’s Republican Party is now calling for an investigation into the results and has asked the secretary of state to look into “a number of irregularities” it claims occurred during Tuesday’s vote.

The special election brought Western Pennsylvania into national spotlight in recent weeks, with major news organizations covering Lamb’s and Saccone’s watch parties in Canonsburg and Elizabeth Township, respectively.

Daniel Dunchack, a junior engineering major, returned home to vote on Tuesday. He was surprised by the outcome of the election,

“I was surprised that the results were as close as they were, because

personally I saw more advertisements for Rick Saccone, so seeing Lamb win was a shock,” Dunchack said.

Sean Jackson, a senior sociology major, also participated in the special election and was able to vote at a local polling station.

He too was surprised by the results and had followed the campaign closely since Lamb announced his running.

“My hope was that Conor Lamb could shrink the gap that was seen in the 2016 presidential election for this district. I believed Lamb was a strong choice by the Democrats, as he is more attractive to moderate Democrats and Republicans. But I truly did believe that Rick Saccone would ultimately win the district,” Jackson said.

Jackson thought that Lamb ran a strong campaign and focused on a more positive message than Saccone did.

“Although Lamb out-raised Saccone, much more money was used to promote Saccone and attack Lamb from outside sources. I believe Lamb ran a great campaign against the odds,” Jackson said.

Senior political science major Braden Lishinsky also followed the campaign and election.

“I thought it was going to be a tight race, but I’m not surprised by the outcome. Even though Republicans had the upper hand in terms of demographics in this area, I think Lamb won on the issues. His campaign had a great grassroots effort,” Lishinsky said.

Dunchack feels that the special election will inspire voters to participate in the midterm elections this November.

“I think that moving forward, more people will go to vote because of their dissatisfaction with the election results, and because the poll was so close they might realize their vote makes a difference,” he said.

Jackson also thinks that voters will be energized going into the midterm elections.

“I believe that many of Trump’s voters in the area have become dissatisfied. I also think there is a much greater sense of energy coming from the Democratic party, which will lead to a large change in voting for the midterms in November,” Jackson said.

Lishinsky feels there is a “Democratic wave” moving towards the area in the upcoming midterm elections.

“For some, I think voting for Conor Lamb was a vote against Trump and his policies. On the other hand, Democrats were organized and engaged, and [Lamb’s] campaign offered a clear and distinct message focused on the issues that matter most to people,” he said.

Lishinsky feels that Lamb campaigned on issues relating to improving and expanding healthcare, protecting Social Security, battling the opioid epidemic and supporting unions and workers. He believes these topics helped inspire people to vote.

“The people of the Eighteenth District chose this Democratic message, and more importantly, people went out and voted. Conor Lamb was able to flip a Trump district and so I think Democrats have a reasonable shot at flipping other Republican districts. This gives Democrats a real chance at taking back the House and Senate later this year,” Lishinsky said.

President Trump won the heavily conservative Eighteenth District by nearly 20 points in 2016.

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Counsel to the President Kellyanne Conway all supported Saccone during his campaign.

Trump visited Pennsylvania on behalf of Saccone twice.

U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned for of Lamb in February and March.

The special election was held after the departure of longtime Congressman Tim Murphy, a Republican who announced his resignation in October 2017. Murphy vacated the seat following reports that he encouraged his mistress to terminate her pregnancy.

Lamb, Saccone and Libertarian candidate Drew Miller competed for the Congressional seat.

Photos: Brendan McDermid (Reuters); SVC Flickr

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