Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Conor Lamb gets ready to bounce between 18 and 17, D.C. and Mt. Lebanon

By Julian Routh

Conor Lamb just got back from his first official trip to Washington, D.C. as Congressman-elect.

Don’t worry. It didn’t kill his new-politician belief that things can get done in Congress.

“There really are people that want to get things done and work together,” Mr. Lamb said in an interview with the Post-Gazette Friday, after participating in a panel discussion at state Rep. Dan Miller’s 5th annual Disability Summit in Scott.

“I met several Republicans when I was down there. And the people in organized labor are used to working with both sides,” he continued. “I’m a lot more optimistic about it than I think some people are.”

With no official date set for his swearing-in to the U.S. House, the 33-year-old former federal prosecutor is in political limbo, bouncing between the 18th district and the nation’s capital.

And being called Congressman-elect is brand-new to Mr. Lamb — at least officially. His opponent, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone of Elizabeth, conceded the close 18th district race on Wednesday following eight days of tedious recounts and talk of a Republican challenge to the results, even though Mr. Lamb had declared victory on election night. The National Republican Congressional Committee confirmed through a spokesman Friday it was no longer considering a legal challenge to the results.

The last few weeks were on Mr. Miller’s mind as he introduced the panel of 13 state and local legislators, seated in a line at the front of Beth El Congregation’s main sanctuary. When he got to Mr. Lamb, he was preempted by a big round of applause before saying this was his first official appearance as congressman-elect.

Residents of the current 18th district haven’t had a congressman since October, when Rep. Tim Murphy — in his eighth term — resigned amid scandal.

Before then, some residents had been upset about Mr. Murphy’s lack of availability to his constituents. Up until his resignation, a “Mondays with Murphy” group had assembled each week outside the Congressman’s district office to urge him to respond to their issues.

Mr. Lamb will be setting up shop in the same office Mr. Murphy’s team used in Mt. Lebanon for district work. But having the same office doesn’t mean having the same vision about how to interact with constituents.

“Our doors will be wide open and they’ll be able to meet with our people any time,” Mr. Lamb said. “I’m going to hold town halls regularly, including very early on. They’re not going to have to protest to get my attention.”

The workload will be tricky for the freshman Congressman, who will have to balance running a separate campaign for an entirely different district. He filed his paperwork this week to bid for the seat in the newly-drawn 17th, a territory he is only partially familiar with following a state Supreme Court redrawing of the electoral map.

“Im just going to do it the old-fashioned way with hard work and a great team,” Mr. Lamb said. “We’re going to be very disciplined about how we manage the schedule. But this is my life. I left a job that I loved to run for this in the first place because I feel so strongly about it.”

Mr. Lamb said he wants the 18th district to have “the best representation of anyone anywhere in this country” for the rest of the year. At the same time, he’ll face two primary challengers for election in the 17th and the prospect of going up against incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus in the general.

First Published March 23, 2018, 3:12pm