Republican Fred Keller wins Pennsylvania special election

State lawmaker was heavily favored given 12th District’s GOP lean

Pennsylvania state Rep. Fred Keller, who won Tuesday’s special election in the 12th District, joined President Donald Trump onstage at a rally Monday in Montoursville. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A former factory manager who hasn’t gone to college is now headed to Congress.

Republican state Rep. Fred Keller easily defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg in a special election Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Keller led the Penn State professor, 67.8 percent to 32.2 percent.

The result was not unexpected given that President Donald Trump would have carried the deep-red seat by 36 points in 2016 under the current congressional lines. 

Trump traveled to the district Monday to boost the state lawmaker. He also recorded a robocall encouraging voters to support Keller and praised him in a tweet Tuesday.

Keller was endorsed by both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the House Freedom Caucus’ PAC during the campaign. His campaign manager Jon Anzur previously told CQ Roll Call he did not expect Keller to join the Freedom Caucus.

Before he was elected to the state House in 2010, Keller worked at Conestoga Wood Specialties, a factory that produces kitchen cabinet doors and other wooden kitchen items. He touted his personal story on the campaign trail — growing up in a poor family and working his way up in the factory, eventually becoming plant operations manager. Keller will be one of two House members who did not attend college.

“That is the success … that’s available to every American so long as we define our government and we don’t let our government define us,” Keller said in a debate earlier this month. “We can’t afford to go and have things like the Green New Deal and socialized medicine that take choices away from people.”

The seat became vacant early this year after GOP Rep. Tom Marino resigned. Marino initially said he was leaving to work in the private sector, but later revealed it was because of an issue with his kidney.

Trump had tapped Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, but Marino had to withdraw his name from consideration following reports that a law based on a bill he sponsored hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to target opioid manufacturers.

Paul V. Fontelo and George LeVines contributed to this report.

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