HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania will hold a special election March 13 to complete the term of disgraced Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, an anti-abortion lawmaker who resigned after his hometown newspaper revealed he had suggested a mistress get an abortion when they thought she might be pregnant.
Monday’s announcement by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf puts the campaigns of at least nine Republican and Democratic would-be candidates into high gear to become their party’s nominee. The candidates include four Republican state lawmakers and, on the Democrats side, a former federal prosecutor and the former head of the state’s largest teachers union.
Murphy’s last day in office was Saturday, ending a nearly 15-year run in the 18th District seat.
Following the 2000 census, state Republican lawmakers first tailored the district’s boundaries for Murphy, carving it out of the shrinking population of southwestern Pennsylvania districts represented by Democrats. Murphy, then in the state Senate, ran and won the open seat in 2002, with the help of conservative Democratic voters who were accustomed to backing Republicans for president.
The district today still has a majority of registered Democrats in it, but it is considered Republican-friendly. Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton there by a 3-2 ratio in last year’s presidential election.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party chairman, Marcel Groen, said he expects the special election to replace Murphy to be a nationally watched contest, with a lot of campaign money pouring into it.
Next year’s May 15 primary and Nov. 6 general elections will determine who holds the seat in the 2019-20 term.
The 18th District seat covers parts of Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, giving those county party organizations a say in whom to make the special election nominee.
Murphy, a practicing psychologist, author and former commander in the Navy Reserves who had made mental health treatment a signature issue, has acknowledged the affair with the mistress, who wasn’t pregnant. He has remained publicly silent, other than saying in a brief statement he would seek help as he and his family work through their “difficulties.”