Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th District, greets supporters at a Tuesday election night rally. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

From Pennsylvania, a warning of a ‘hurricane-force wind’ in November

Batten down those Republican hatches.

Officially, last night’s congressional contest in western Pennsylvania hasn’t been called. Even so, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb has laid claim to a narrow, 600-vote victory against Republican Rick Saccone in a district that President Donald Trump won by 20 points just 16 months ago.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a thoroughly anti-Trump venue, Lamb was asked what he would say if the president called to congratulate him.

“I guess I would say ‘thank you,’” Lamb replied.

Asked how voters who cast their ballots for Trump explained their support for him, Lamb had this soft reply:

“I never really asked anyone who they voted for in November 2016. I thought that was a little impolite and kind of beside the point. …The feedback that people gave me about politics over all was that things are too divide, they hear a lot of bickering – especially from Washington D.C., and they don’t see results.”

A bit of morning analysis from ABC News:

Lamb pulled off a two-fer in western Pennsylvania, turning out more voters in bluer areas of the district near Pittsburgh as well as swing voters in ruby, red areas too. For example, President Trump won Greene County, in the far southwest corner of the state, by 43 points in 2016. Tuesday night, Lamb had shrunk that margin to about 16 points.

But it was CNN’s “New Day” interview of U.S. Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., that resonated this morning.

"I think most Republicans realize we're running into a very serious headwind, a hurricane-force wind," Dent said. "It's coming, and we have to be ready for it. Some of our members in the marginal districts, the swing districts, are better prepared for these fights, frankly, than some members in safer seats."

Dent’s description could fit at least two congressional districts in Georgia.

***

We’ve long established that the two Democratic candidates for governor -- both attorneys and both former state lawmakers -- have sharply contrasting strategies and, in some cases, policies. Financial records released this week show a vast gulf in their wealth, too.

Stacey Evans, the former House representative from Smyrna, reported a net worth of roughly $5.2 million, thanks partly to a victory in a lucrative Medicaid fraud lawsuit. She has $6.7 million in assets - mostly in property and stock holdings - and $1.5 million in liabilities. Her debt is mostly from mortgages and an outstanding $45,000 student loan.

Evans’ report shows there’s a limit to the notion that she can self-finance her campaign. She has already pumped roughly one-quarter of her net worth - about $1.2 million - into the race.

Stacey Abrams, the former House minority leader, reported a net worth of about $110,000, with $520,000 in assets - mostly tied up in her Atlanta townhouse - and $410,000 in liabilities. Beyond her mortgage, those debts included a nearly $100,000 student loan and about $50,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Her campaign said Abrams deferred her tax payments in 2015 and 2016 because she was helping to support her family’s living and medical expenses. The campaign also said she was on a payment plan with the IRS.

“In addition to her work as a public servant, as an entrepreneur Stacey Abrams has helped Georgia small businesses create and save thousands of jobs,” said her spokeswoman Priyanka Mantha. “But like a lot of Georgians, Abrams has faced financial challenges while working to support her family.”

Financially, the one spot where Abrams surpassed Evans was in 2017 income reported. Abrams earned $30,000 from her state Capitol duties, and reported $157, 471 earned for the year in total. Income includes a $5,000 book contract.

Evans, a lower-ranking House member, reported $20,000 in salary and per diem from her Capitol work. Coupled with interest and dividends, she reported a total $68, 355 earned.

***

On the Republican side of the gubernatorial race, the financial filing by former state Sen. Hunter Hill of Atlanta showed him with a $450,000 net worth -- $785,000 in assets and $335,000 in liabilities from his mortgage and his Kia. Other GOP candidates had yet to file. 

***

St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah could be even more colorful than usual on Saturday. Upon news that Vice President Mike Pence will attend, the Savannah Morning News reports that local LGBT activists are upping their investments in “an assortment of rainbow colored flags, signs and outfits.”

***

Two Republicans haven’t given up on House District 40, one of several northern metro Atlanta seats that Democrats have their eye on in November. This is the one being vacated by state Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.

One GOP candidate is attorney Matt Bentley. The other is Taryn Bowman, who on Wednesday announced an endorsement not just from UGA great Herschel Walker, but from Walker’s wife, Julie Blanchard. It’s shaping up to be that kind of year.

***

Georgia Republicans had nice things to say about Trump’s new picks to lead the State Department and CIA after the president announced his plans to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, described Pompeo, a former House colleague, as a “steady hand” who would be an “excellent candidate” as Trump plans to engage in nuclear talks with North Korea and overhaul trade agreements.

Even though U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson was a “big Tillerson supporter,” the Republican indicated he was supportive of both Pompeo and Gina Haspel, the CIA deputy director whom Trump tapped to succeed him. Haspel is “the real deal,” Isakson said. Never mind her tortured history.

***

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, on Monday addressed the Judicial Conference, a policy-making group of federal court judges that includes Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Johnson made no mention of Donald Trump by name, but the president was never all that far from his thoughts. The Democrat thanked the judges for their service, but warned about the “strategic” and “ongoing assault on the reputation of the Courts … at the hands of reckless and perhaps uninformed politicians.”

“Efforts by politicians, to impugn the competence and integrity of individual judges, undermine the respect that the American people have for the judicial branch, hurt our form of governance, and that is something to be vigorously opposed,” Johnson said.

The Georgia congressman was invited to address the group as the top Democrat on a House subcommittee overseeing the courts. Trump has criticized federal judges who have ruled against portions of his agenda, including his travel ban.

***

Ousted health secretary Tom Price indeed has reimbursed the federal government some $60,000 for the charter flights that got him in trouble, but House Democrats investigating Trump administration officials for their travel habits say they still have questions.

Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday released a letter written last November, confirming that the Treasury Department received three checks from Price totaling more than $59,000. “A handwritten notation on the checks indicates that they relate to certain travel expenses,” the Nov. 8 letter states. But Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said he still had questions for the Trump administration about Kellyanne Conway. The presidential adviser reportedly accompanied Price on many of his private flights, and Cummings urged his GOP colleague to issue a subpoena for more information. 

As he lobbied to save his job last fall, Price had promised to pay for his portion of the flights. But he stopped short of offering the cover the entire cost of the flights, which totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Price has kept a low profile since resigning from his Cabinet post last fall. The onetime Roswell congressman did recently dip his toe back in the public arena: Jackson Healthcare, a Georgia-based health care staffing and technology services company, announced in January that Price had joined its advisory board.

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