With the Republican Party’s announcement of their nominee over the weekend, the race to replace disgraced former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., just got a little more eccentric.
Rick Saccone, currently a member of the state legislature for the town of Elizabeth, received the nod from the state Republican party to be their nominee to fill the vacant seat. The state representative beat out a field of more moderate Republicans, including state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler and state Rep. Jason Ortitay.
Saccone, a veteran who lived in North Korea for a year, boasts a long list of bizarre credentials. Describing himself as “Trump without the money” in an interview in March with KDKA political editor Jon Delano, he’s not only much too conservative for the district he’s seeking to represent in Congress — he’s too delusional.
The communities clumped together to form Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district stretch from the Ohio border to Westmoreland County and include suburbs to the south of Pittsburgh — most notably Mount Lebanon, Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair. And while Donald Trump won the district overall with around 58 percent of the vote, many of his votes came from heavily conservative rural areas in Greene and Washington counties.
Republican dominance in the district with Tim Murphy as the party’s standard-bearer relied much more heavily on the support of more moderate, wealthy voters closer to the City. Murphy lives in Upper St. Clair and, while strongly opposed to women’s access to abortion, received recognition as more moderate on issues like police relations and economic stimulus spending.
Saccone, on the other hand, places the emphasis of his lawmaking philosophy on extreme adherence to religious Christian teaching. One of his best known initiatives in the Pennsylvania legislature, which he proposed in 2013, would have required all public schools in the commonwealth to prominently display the words “In God We Trust.” In a 2016 interview with PennLive, Saccone said the bill would encourage patriotism and religiosity.
He said “our motto” was there during the Cold War when “we were trying to show our country’s devotion to God when we were fighting against Godless communism.”
Saccone is welcome to fight the Cold War over and over again in his head. But he shouldn’t doing so as a member of Congress, where someone could be making meaningful improvements for ordinary Pennsylvanians.
Southwestern Pennsylvania remains among the hardest hit regions of the country’s worsening opioid abuse epidemic. According to the Pennsylvania Coroners Association, counties in the 18th district are among the highest in the state for number of deaths related to opioid overdoses.
To be fair, Saccone has mentioned the crisis in the past, including in a Sept. 2016 public announcement, as an issue to be addressed. However, his focus on the crisis as a moral problem, instead of a primarily public health and economic issue, is concerning to say the least.
Whether or not Saccone will get a chance to address these issues on the national level remains to be seen until the special election next March to fill Murphy’s former seat. Until then, those living in the district should do everything in their power to ensure we don’t have to deal with that reality.