Republican Keller Wins U.S. House Election in Pennsylvania

May 22, 2019 by Dan McCue
Representative-elect Fred Keller talks to the media on special election day in Pennsylvania. (Photo via Twitter)

Fred Keller, a Republican state representative backed by President Donald Trump, defeated Marc Friedenberg, a Democrat and professor at Penn State University, in a special election Tuesday to fill a vacancy in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.

According to a vote count tabulated by the Associated Press, Keller garnered 68.1 percent of the vote — 89,176 votes of the 130,970 votes case — while Friedenberg came away with 31.9 percent of the vote, representing the support of 41,794 voters.

The special election was held to fill the seat of former GOP Representative Tom Marino, who abruptly resigned from Congress in January to take a job in the private sector.

“Having spent over two decades serving the public, I have chosen to take a position in the private sector where I can use both my legal and business experience to create jobs around the nation,” Marino said in a statement at the time.

The district, which covers northeastern and central parts of the state, was redrawn by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 2018 after a previous district map was declared unconstitutional due to gerrymandering.

Formerly, most of the district was part of Pennsylvania’s solidly Republican 10th congressional district, and the new 12th congressional district remained favorable for the GOP.

The 2018 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+6, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 6 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

The district voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election, 66 percent to 30 percent, over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In 2012, Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama in what was then the 10th congressional district, 58 percent to 40 percent, and in 2008, Senator John McCain beat Senator Barack Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent.

Trump traveled to the district on Monday for a campaign rally that reinforced the widely held belief that Pennsylvania will be a critical Electoral College battleground in 2020.

Keller, who shared the stage with Trump at the rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, assured the president that the state’s “support for you is as strong today as it ever was.”

“In 2016, Pennsylvania put Donald Trump over the top. And in 2020, we’re going to do it again,” Keller said.

Trump also recorded a robocall for Keller and on Tuesday tweeted “Fred is Strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare. He has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Keller’s victory filled one of the three vacant seats in the House.

The other two are in North Carolina, which will fill seats it the state’s 3rd and 9th congressional districts in elections on Sept. 10.

Other Results

In other Pennsylvania election news Tuesday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney handily won the Democratic primary in the nation’s sixth largest city, defeating two challengers.

Republican Billy Ciancaglini ran unopposed in the GOP primary.

The victory all but assures Kenney will stay on as mayor in Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly 7-to-1 ratio.

“Serving as your mayor has been the greatest honor of my life,” Kenney told supporters at his election-night party at the National Museum of American Jewish History. “There’s something special about being mayor when you walk into a pre-K classroom and see how a quality education serves our children.”

Philadelphia voters also overwhelmingly approved four proposed charter amendments on Tuesday. These included the creation of a new class of law officer dedicated to traffic enforcement, the use of gender-neutral language for City Council and its members; making permanent the Office of Immigrant Affairs, created by executive order in 2016; and urging the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Judicial Contests

On the judicial front, Democrats Amanda Green-Hawkins, a Pittsburgh lawyer, and Philadelphia Judge Daniel McCaffery won spots on the fall ballot in Tuesday’s primary election for the state Superior Court, as did Republicans Megan King, a Chester County prosecutor, and Cumberland County Judge Christylee Peck.

The 15-seat Superior Court is the state’s mid-level appellate court and handles civil and criminal appeals from county courts.

Turnout for Tuesday’s contests surpassed the 2017 primary and general elections, as well as the 2018 primary election.

More than 237,000 people across Pennsylvania voted on election day, with absentee ballots still to be counted. In the 2015 primary election, 269,635 people voted; in the 2017 primary, 210,838 people voted.

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