Republican candidate Rick Saccone has finally conceded to his Democratic opponent in the Pennsylvania special election, in what is being interpreted as an ominous sign for Donald Trump’s party ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The result comes in a district Mr Trump won by almost 20 points in the 2016 presidential election. Democrat Conor Lamb beat Mr Saccone by a fraction of a percentage point to claim a seat in the US House of Representatives.
The President campaigned on multiple occasions for Mr Saccone, who started the race polling well ahead of Mr Lamb, during the run up to the vote on 13 March.
“Just got off the phone with my opponent, @RickSaccone4PA, who congratulated me and graciously conceded last Tuesday’s election,” Mr Lamb said on Twitter.
An official at Mr Saccone’s campaign confirmed the candidate had conceded.
The earliest the final election result can be certified is 26 March, but the final tally could be unknown for weeks.
Mr Lamb led Mr Saccone by 627 votes unofficially, state returns showed last week; Mr Lamb had 49.8 percent of the vote and Mr Saccone 49.6 percent.
House Republicans described the race as a one-off, noting that Mr Lamb, 33, a Marine Corps veteran, had distanced himself from his party’s leaders and staked out a position to the right of many Democrats.
The patchwork of small towns, farms and Pittsburgh suburbs that make up Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district has been so staunchly Republican that Democrats did not field candidates in the previous two House elections.
Come November, the district will cease to exist because boundaries have been redrawn. Both Mr Lamb and Mr Saccone are expected to run again, though in different districts.
The election, held to replace a Republican who resigned amid a scandal last year, was the latest forceful electoral showing for Democrats, who also won a governor’s race in Virginia and scored a US Senate upset in conservative Alabama.
Mr Lamb’s strong showing could buoy Democrats nationally as they seek to win control of the House from Republicans in the November elections. Democrats see 118 Republican-held districts in play. If they flip 24 seats, they could reclaim a House majority.
The Lamb win vindicates a strategy Democrats are using in some races to enlist candidates whose positions and ideologies are well suited to the district even while conflicting in significant ways with the positions of the Democratic leadership in Washington.
Additional reporting by Reuters