Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Democrats put Lamb in their incumbent-protection program

By Tracie Mauriello

WASHINGTON – Until a few months ago, Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was barely on the D.C. Democrats’ radar, but now that Conor Lamb is going to represent the district, they don’t plan to let his success slip away.

Two days after Mr. Lamb’s narrow victory over Republican Rick Saccone, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Mr. Lamb to its Frontline Program, essentially the party’s incumbent-protection program.

Beneficiaries receive extra help in fund-raising and strategizing for the November general election. That’s the kind of assistance Mr. Lamb waived away during the run-up to this week’s special election, when he said he would run a grassroots campaign without heavy outside investment.

The DCCC reported spending about $300,000 on the special election while the National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than 10 times as much to help Mr. Saccone.

Democratic strategists appear to be banking on the benefits of the DCCC’s increased attention to outweigh any negative connotations of establishment support from Washington.

In the last cycle, 14 people were initially named to the Frontline Program and only one lost.

Mr. Lamb joins 18 others who were named to the program in January based on their success in tough districts and the DCCC’s perception that they’ll win again with an extra boost.

“Congressman-elect Conor Lamb embodies toughness, hard work and service, and represents the very best of his community and our country,” said DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico. “Conor’s record of service combined with a deep connection to labor and the grassroots community puts him in a very strong position to be re-elected in November.”

In November, Mr. Lamb probably will have to run in a substantially different district, thanks, to new congressional boundaries that will be in effect if a new congressional map holds up in court. The change would put him in the 17th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley.

He could have an easier time there than he did in the 18th, where President Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points. In the newly drawn 17th, Trump beat Clinton by 3 percentage points. Democrats believe that gives Mr. Lamb even better odds than in the 18th, but they aren’t taking any chances. That’s why they put him in the Frontline Program.

Mr. Rothfus stands to get an extra boost from his party, too. The RNCC has put him in its own version of an incumbent protection plan called the Patriot Program.