HARRISBURG, Pa. — Hundreds of Pennsylvania political candidates and their supporters followed vote counting closely Wednesday, watching downballot races that may hinge on the same untallied mail-in and provisional ballots that have delayed the state’s presidential race results as Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb declared victory in a Pittsburgh-area congressional district.
The winners of four of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional races remained unclear a day after Election Day, along with results of three statewide officer contests and the makeup of a good chunk of the Legislature.
Among the races yet uncalled by The Associated Press is the one in the 17th Congressional District, where Lamb faces Republican Sean Parnell, a decorated Army vet who is a regular guest on Fox News programs and a favorite of President Donald Trump's.
Lamb, seen as a crucial link for the Democratic Party to hang to its historic relationship with influential blue-collar unions in steel and coal country, said he was confident in declaring victory outside late Wednesday, flanked by posters that said “We did it” and “You did it.”
Speaking at a Steamfitters union hall, Lamb said Americans must attack climate change, heal the county's bitter divisions and use government as a force for good.
“We are the majority and we proved that again tonight," Lamb said. “We can demand that our leaders respect each other and the people that they represent. We can demand that they tell the truth and we can demand that they put working people and the men and women of our unions ahead of special interests.”
Nina Ahmad, the Democratic candidate in the statewide race for auditor general, said that after a late night she was forcing herself to be patient and avoid obsessing over the latest internet results or cable TV analysis.
“I’m trying to do none of that,” Ahmad said Wednesday. “I’m doing it occasionally — other people are doing it on my behalf. What I’m doing is, ‘Should I empty the dishwasher? Should I fold clothes?’ Things I haven’t done in these last few months.”
With unofficial returns due to the state early next week, and certified results in about three weeks, the counting will recalibrate the partisan balance in the politically riven General Assembly and determine whether any members of the state’s congressional delegation have lost their jobs.
“Counting votes cast by mail, if you’re going to do it right and you’re going to do it accurately — because there’s no other choice — takes a little bit of time," Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt said Wednesday. “So I know that’s very frustrating.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf sounded a similar note, pledging that all votes are “going to be counted accurately and they’re going to be counted fully."
Incumbents awaiting results in congressional races are Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and Democratic U.S. Reps. Susan Wild, Matt Cartwright and Lamb. The other 14 Pennsylvania incumbents all won.
In a closely watched congressional race, Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick won a third term in a suburban Philadelphia district, turning back a challenge from Democrat Christina Finello.
Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent who succeeded his brother in the seat, brands himself as independent in the politically divided district and was one of just three House Republicans in the entire country running for reelection in a district won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Control of the state House was also at stake. Democrats went into the election needing nine seats to seize the majority from Republicans after a decade out of power, but lost at least one incumbent in early returns.
First-term Rep. Wendy Ullman of Bucks County in the Philadelphia suburbs was defeated by Republican Shelby Labs.
Democrats also saw hopes of regaining a state Senate majority become dimmer as Republican Devlin Robinson unseated Democratic Sen. Pam Iovino in a suburban Pittsburgh district. Republicans currently have a 28-21 Senate majority, as well as an independent who caucuses with the GOP, Luzerne County Sen. John Yudichak.
A pair of Democratic incumbents, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Treasurer Joe Torsella, are hoping they were reelected, while Pennsylvanians also picked a new auditor general to replace term-limited Democrat Eugene DePasquale. In that race, Ahmad’s Republican opponent is Timothy DeFoor.