Image courtesy of YouTube
A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone
During his 15 years as a U.S. congressman, former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) held strict socially conservative views
, but supported enough liberal economic views that some considered him a moderate. Murphy resigned amidst scandal
last year, and a special election for his seat will be held March 13.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) was nominated by Republicans to compete in the election against former U.S. Assistant Attorney Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon). And recent support from conservative and libertarian political-advocacy organizations suggest Saccone is more economically conservative than Murphy.
Saccone has been endorsed by economically conservative political-advocacy groups
FreedomWorks for America and the Club for Growth, groups that have opposed Murphy in the past. And even though Saccone will speak at an event in North Fayette with President Donald Trump on Jan. 18, Saccone's support also suggests that he has different economic policy priorities than Trump, who won the district handily in 2016 thanks, in part, to populist, protectionist economic policies like criticizing free trade
According to a statement, FreedomWorks believes a shift to more conservative economic policies will appeal to constituents in the 18th District.
“It’s a shame that a conservative-leaning district has endured many terms without a freedom fighter representing them in the House of Representatives,” said FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon in a press release. “Rick Saccone will be a breath of fresh air to those who believe in the Constitution, limited government, lower taxes, and more economic freedom.”
Club for Growth endorsed Saccone in December saying Saccone “is a constitutional conservative who supports lower taxes, repealing Obamacare, and limiting the size of government.”
In 2012, FreedomWorks opposed Murphy and backed his primary opponent, Evan Feinberg. Also in 2012, Club for Growth took out ads attacking Murphy for a 2007 vote, where Murphy supported a bill to make it easier for employees to unionize. Murphy won the 2012 primary election by 27 points and eventually went on to win that year’s general election.
Ending Spending Inc., a nonprofit that is critical of government spending, has also already released TV ads in support of Saccone. Ending Spending was founded by billionaire Joe Ricketts, who owns the Chicago Cubs and also founded brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. In December 2017, Ricketts shut down a group of news sites he owned, including the Gothamists and DNAinfo, days after the employees there voted to unionize, according to the New York Daily News
. The left-leaning magazine In These Times
wrote in November 2017
that Ending Spending “aims to put an ‘enforceable cap’ on public spending and brand those who advocate for expansionary fiscal policy as ‘budget bandits.’”
And while Saccone has noted his conservative agenda in the past and has said he was “Trump before there was Trump," FreedomWorks were anti-Trump during the 2016 primary elections. And Club for Growth endorsed Trump’s primary opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in 2016. Also, while Saccone and Trump do share similar views on immigration, business and health care, candidate Trump won over many union members in Southwestern Pennsylvania by promising to bring back the heavy-industry jobs of yesteryear and floating a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, according to Pennsylvania political pollster G. Terry Madonna.
Madonna told Pittsburgh City Paper
that Trump did well in Southwestern Pennsylvania because he promised some kind of government intervention to help the rural towns that have fallen on hard times. The aforementioned groups that have endorsed Saccone advocate the opposite of government intervention and spending. Madonna also noted in his
political newsletter, where he shares thoughts on Pennsylvania political races, that “Murphy sometimes worked with unions” while “Saccone recently angered them by voting for a paycheck protection bill.”
Additionally, Saccone has shown opposition to other labor-union causes, including writing a bill in 2016 that would have eliminated union leave for teachers (when teachers take a leave of absence to work for the union). American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations President Richard Trumka told the Washington Examiner
in August 2017 that Trump overperformed with union members in Pennsylvania compared to other Republicans candidates in the past. Saccone has defended his record as positive for union members saying in a December 2017 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
that union members “have voted for me because I’m for reducing regulations and taxes, and many of the jobs that attracts are union jobs.”
And union support could be important in the 18th District race.
Union membership in Southwestern Pennsylvania is still relatively high. The Pittsburgh metro area, which includes most of Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, has union membership at 12.7 percent, which is above the national average of 10.7 percent. The pro-union news site Pay Day Reports
says that 18th District contains about 70,000 union members.
In contrast to Saccone, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb has focused his campaign on building support from labor unions. The AFL-CIO recently endorsed Lamb
and Lamb took to Twitter to criticize the Ending Spending ad buy for Saccone, saying “we support unions” in the 18th District.