LOS ANGELES- “All politics is local” is a phrase attributed to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill. It is a phrase heard frequently in Washington, D.C., but I didn’t see any talk of local politics this week in the coverage of the special election of the 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania.
Democrats have been sending out a ton of emails hailing (and often asking for money) the win by Conor Lamb. Depending on what you read, Donald Trump won the 18th district by 20 or 21 points in the 2016 election. That would mean, in conventional terms, that the Conor Lamb beat Donald Trump.
However, what you haven’t seen in the press is the voter reaction to the exit of Republican Tim Murphy, who won the district first in 2002 and then won elections after that. Was District 18 voting against Tim Murphy and his double life, or was it voting against Donald Trump?
Tim Murphy resigned when people learned some unseemly things about him. He is a trained Ph.D. psychologist who was on the faculty of a medical school and wrote a book, “Overcoming Passive-Aggression: How to Stop Hidden Anger from Spoiling Your Relationships, Career, and Happiness.” He was lauded at the time for the book and had previously written “The Angry Child: Regaining Control When Your Child Is Out of Control.” He was in the Pennsylvania Senate when he wrote the first book and in the U.S. House of Representatives when he wrote the book on passive-aggression. His 2012 re-election to Congress was supported by two anti-abortion groups, the National Right to Life Committee and PA Pro-Life Federation. He was considered to be definitely “pro-life.”
Wikipedia describes what happened: “In early September 2017, Murphy, 64, admitted to an extramarital affair with Shannon Edwards, a 32-year-old forensic psychologist. The affair came to light in the course of Edwards’ divorce proceedings. On October 3, 2017, Murphy’s hometown newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reported that a text message on January 5 of that year from Edwards to Murphy included the statement, ‘[Y]ou have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options’ in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare. To which Murphy replied, ‘I get what you say about my March for Life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.’”
In the same article, the Post-Gazette published a June 8 memorandum from Murphy’s chief of staff to Murphy complaining of the congressman’s repeated harassment of staff and his “hostile, erratic, unstable, angry, aggressive and abusive behavior,” which led to an “inability to hire and retain competent staff, [and] abysmal office morale.”
On Oct. 4, Murphy announced that he would not run for an eighth term in 2018. During the next 24 hours, several former staffers came forward with claims of an abusive environment in his office. By Oct. 5, House Republican leaders concluded the allegations should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee.
Democrats are crowing about the victory of soon-to-be Rep. Lamb. They have sent multiple emails about the Lamb win, and how now it looks like control of Congress can be turned over to Democrats. While that might be true, it is important to note that Lamb is a conservative Democrat who likes guns and does not like Nancy Pelosi.
One Democratic email stated: “The Democratic victory last night in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district was an appropriately dramatic cliff hanger amidst the daily swirl of chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“In the state’s southwestern district, which Trump won by 20% in 2016, Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33 year-old Marine Corps Officer and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, beat Republican Rick Saccone, 60, by .02%. After the final absentee votes were counted this morning, that came down to 627 votes.
“In the critical battleground state that helped deliver Trump his presidency, and in a district which the incumbent Republican Congressman won with 60%, the GOP itself touted this as a referendum on Trump’s popularity – which averages 40.7% nationally.”
The Democratic Party should not be “counting their chickens” yet. The win this week may have just been a reaction to Tim Murphy’s bad behavior and having little or nothing to do with President Trump.