Fred Keller, a Republican state representative, beat Democrat Marc Friedenberg in the race to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th District on Tuesday.
Keller’s victory means that the north-central Pennsylvania district will remain in Republican hands after former Rep. Tom MarinoThomas (Tom) Anthony MarinoThe Hill’s Morning Report – White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget The Hill’s Morning Report – Immigration, health care headline Trump second-term agenda Trump to hold campaign rally in Pennsylvania on May 20 MORE (R-Pa.) stepped down in January, less than one month into his fifth term in office.
The 12th District still tilts heavily in the GOP’s favor, unlike several districts in Pennsylvania that became more competitive for Democrats after the state Supreme Court ordered the state’s congressional lines to be redrawn.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill’s Morning Report – White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE would have carried the district by 36 points in 2016 had the state’s current congressional boundaries been in place that year, and Keller outspent Friedenberg by more than $140,000, according to federal filings.
Keller also got a last-minute boost on Monday when Trump held a rally in Montoursville, inside the 12th District, to campaign with the GOP hopeful.
Speaking to supporters there, Trump declared that the special election was tantamount to a “referendum” on his presidency.
“Get out tomorrow,” Trump urged supporters. “It’s a little bit of a referendum.”
Friedenberg, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, ran against Marino for the seat in 2018. He lost that election by more than 30 points.
While the national parties have largely stayed out of the 12th District special election, Keller’s campaign tested some of the messaging that Republicans are hoping to use in 2020 as they look to retake control of the House and maintain their hold on the Senate.
On the campaign trail, the GOP state representative accused Friedenberg of championing socialism in the same vein as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection California Democrats face crisis of credibility after lawsuits Fox’s Brit Hume fires back at Trump’s criticism of the channel MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSteve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push Fix the climate with smaller families Dem Sen. Markey faces potential primary challenge in Massachusetts MORE (D-N.Y.) while deriding liberal proposals such as the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All.”
For his part, Friedenberg backs those proposals but rarely discussed them in his campaign, focusing instead on a more poll-tested message including issues such as health care and infrastructure.