Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has been a Republican stronghold for more than 15 years. Former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), who recently resigned after a scandal broke
, held the seat since 2002 and never received less than 58 percent of the vote. For the last two elections, Democrats didn’t even bother to offer a challenger to Murphy.
However, emergency physician Bob Solomon believes there is a path to flip the 18th District, but only with a candidate pushing a very progressive-left agenda. The 18th District stretches from Washington and Greene counties to Westmoreland County, and includes the southern section of Allegheny County. Solomon acknowledges the district's voters tend to be “fairly conservative.” But, he believes that campaigning on policies like single-payer health care
, publicly provided higher education, campaign-finance reform and wage equity
, will increase voter turnout among left-leaning voters and entice enough conservative Democrats to put him in the U.S. Congress.
Solomon says these progressive policies are beneficial to working-class individuals.
“The Democratic Party is for the people who work for a living, but the Democratic Party has gotten away from that message,” says Solomon. “But I think we can work to get back to that.”
Solomon officially kicked-off his campaign on Nov. 3 in Carnegie. He works as an emergency-room physician and says he has treated patients all across the district, like coal miners in Greene County and farmers in Washington County. “Because I am a physician, I know we need to move to a rational system of health care that will cover everyone,” says Solomon.
Solomon says social- and racial-justice issues might not be as important to 18th District voters, given the district is overwhelmingly white and rural, but he still believes some issues, like pay equity, will resonant with them.
“Just because you live in a small town doesn't mean you think women should be paid a worse wage,” says Solomon.
Many of Solomon’s more progressive platforms align with former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. But when Democratic voters had a choice in the 2016 primary election between Sanders and the more moderate Hillary Clinton, it appears 18th District voters chose Clinton. (For example, Washington and Greene counties, which are mostly encompassed by the 18th District, voted for Clinton by a 17- and 8-point margin, respectively.)
Regardless, Solomon also believes that lobbyists and big business having such an influential effect on politics is hurting the country. Solomon says campaign-finance reform will be a big part of his platform. “The voters know that many on Capitol Hill are beholden to moneyed interest,” says Solomon. “I want to fight against that.”
Solomon is up against five other challengers for the Democratic nomination for the vacant 18th District seat: Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Allegheny County Councilor Mike Crossey, former Navy officer Pam Iovino, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Lamb.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party will hold a special convention on Nov. 19 in Washington, Pa., to endorse a Democratic candidate for the 18th District’s special election. The special election will be held on March 13, 2018.