Men, Eat This… Never Have ED Again Home | John Gizzi Tags: special election | murphy seat | rick saccone | trump republican Trump Republican Upsets Establishment For Nomination in PA-18 Special Election

In an outcome that could only be called a dramatic upset, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s 18th District selected on Saturday a conservative outsider and early Trump supporter as their nominee to replace former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-PA, in the special election March 13.

Since Republican hopeful Rick Saccone’s proud self-characterization is “a Trump Republican before Trump,” the stage is set for a much-watched contest that the national press and the Democrats are sure to bill as a referendum on the Trump presidency.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax shortly after securing the nomination, four-term, State Rep. Rick Saccone spelled out how he overcame two opponents — both better-financed and connected to the local GOP “establishment.”

“When you have 215 ‘conferees’ meeting to select a nominee, you try to meet as many as you can one-on-one,” Saccone told us, “And I felt if I could meet most of them for ten minutes, that’s what I would need to convince them I had the right agenda.”

By the “right agenda,” Saccone, 59, means issues he has long tried to advance “and which Donald Trump nationalized.” This means major changes in international trade agreements such as NAFTA (“treaties like that were not negotiated to favor us”), a harder line on immigration (“I fell off my chair when Trump said he’d build a wall on the Mexican border — I wanted it for years”), and a strong effort to deal with North Korea.

Saccone noted that there is particular concern about North Korea and, he told us, “quite a few of the conferees [who chose the nominee] liked my background as a former U.S. Air Force officer and as someone who lived in North Korea for a year. (Working for a private firm called KEDO, he dealt with officials of the Pyongyang government in an effort to convince them to implement the agreement that had been negotiated to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons).

“The President feels the tough talk is one way to approach Pyongyang,” said Saccone, who has written two books on North Korea, “Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson seems to be implementing the other side of that approach. He wants a more behind-the-scenes approach negotiating with the North Koreans. That technique can be made to work.”

The Elizabeth town lawmaker is also a strong abortion opponent (“pro- life — no exceptions”) and vigorous supporter of the Second Amendment. He once criticized Chuck E. Cheese restaurants for refusing customers permission to carry guns inside their establishments.

His one-on-one sessions with conferees worked. Meeting at the Southpointe Country Club, the 215 participants yielded a surprise: the long-presumed “establishment” favorite, State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler of Allegheny County, edged Saccone by only one vote—75 to 74— and the other “establishment” candidate, State Sen. Kim Ward came in third with 66 votes.

With Ward eliminated on the second ballot, Saccone won by 123 to 91 over Reschenthaler (who promptly moved that the nomination be unanimous).

Democrats will pick their nominee next Saturday and the favorites among four Democrats are Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, a onetime Miss Pennsylvania USA and former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb.

With the special election next March considered the first post-November test of the Trump presidency, this race will surely be watched beyond the borders of the 18th District.