11:30 ET- Rick Saccone is the GOP nominee, prevailing 123-91 over Reschenthaler.
11:00 ET- In a surprise, Kim Ward has been eliminated in the first round of balloting by a very narrow margin. It is now a one-on-one between Reschenthaler and Saccone; Reschenthaler has a one vote (75-74) lead. Ward was eliminated with 66 votes.
10:55 ET- Unfortunately reporting from the convention is nonexistent, so I don’t know what’s happening, but it appears Ortitay has dropped out.
10:00 ET- The convention is open. If anyone has any twitter links please share them because I’m finding squat.
Elections keep churning on: this Saturday, Republicans are holding their special convention for Tim Murphy’s (R) open PA-18. The convention will open at 9AM ET on Saturday, and our liveblog will start at that time in this thread (though actual voting will probably not be starting until around 11 or noon given how these things generally go). The seat is based in and largely coextensive with the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh; it has a PVI of R+11 and is likely, though not quite certain, to stay in GOP hands. A quartet of serious Republican candidates, all of them state legislators, are facing off at Saturday’s GOP Convention. 200-some insiders will pick the nominee and thus the favorite to take the seat in the March 13 general election. The quick timing of the convention means that none of these four have yet had the chance to coalesce widespread support, meaning this nomination is significantly more open than you might expect for machine-dominated Pennsylvania. (Also, we often speak of Pennsylvania as a machine politics state, but the western half of the state tends to have significantly weaker machines than the eastern half). That situation means this race is even harder than a typical convention to handicap, which is really saying something considering that conventions are hard to analyze to begin with. This race uses a typical iterative convention ballot system, where the lowest candidate is eliminated and the others advance to another round until someone gets over 50%. There are 215 delegates at the convention, apportioned as follows: 80 from Westmoreland, 79 from Allegheny, 50 from Washington, and 6 from Greene. The main quirk of this convention seems to be not in the voting, but the candidate presentations: just 5 minutes are allowed for speeches, but candidates will have up to 20 minutes for Q&A, making the pre-voting part of the convention essentially a Town Hall Meeting format.
State Sen. Kim Ward (R) is the most politically-experienced candidate. Ward is well-known from her decade in the legislature, and has strong connections from her prior service in a former state administration and Rick Santorum’s US Senate campaign. Ward was recruited to run for the US Senate in 2012, but declined. For this race, Ward is the only candidate from Westmoreland County (in fact, the only candidate of the four living outside Allegheny), giving her a strong geographic base. That may be quite important as tea leaves suggest that the Allegheny delegation has strong supporters of all 3 other candidates; a relatively united Westmoreland and a split Allegheny could get Ward very close to victory by itself. Additionally, Ward’s longer political history and broader connections are big assets in this insider dominated format, and thus she looks like a slight front-runner here. However, Ward is facing three serious rivals. (my odds – 40%)
State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R) was the first candidate into the race, jumping in hours after Murphy retired. In contrast to Ward’s profile as a veteran pol, Reschenthaler is considered a fast-rising star; in his early 30s, he previously served in Iraq as a JAG corps member before winning election to a local judicial seat. Reschenthaler is also experienced at conventions, winning his State Senate nomination at a 2015 convention against better-known candidates. He seems to have solid establishment support in this race as well, and thus also likely has a strong chance to win. (my odds – 30%)
State Rep. Rick Saccone (R) is the most antiestablishment leaning of the major candidates. Saccone was previously running for the US Senate seat, but his odds of receiving that nomination went to near zero when Rep. Lou Barletta (R) declared, so he dropped down to this race. Saccone is known as a staunch social conservative, particularly on religion and Second Amendment issues. This district is far from a bad place for that kind of Republican, but the GOP establishment and activist community in the seat is more upscale in sensibilities, so Saccone may have a tough time getting crossover support from the party’s more moderate wing. But if the convention is more antiestablishment dominated he could have a good chance. (my odds – 18%)
State Rep. Jason Ortitay (R) is the final serious candidate in the race. Ortitay, who like Reschenthaler is in his early 30s, is also considered a rising star, as he won two seriously-contested races for a historically Dem seat. Ortitay is the only candidate who represents a large part of Washington County (though Reschenthaler and Saccone represent smallish bits of it), potentially giving him a geographic base there. But overall he is the least politically-experienced of the candidates and, at least going in, looks like the longest shot. However, Ortitay giving a great speech and surprising is far from out of the question. (my odds – 12%)
A total Some Dude, postal worker George Karpacs (R), is also running, but should have zero chance. (my odds – 0.01%) Overall, any four of the serious candidates coming out on top would not be a surprise, though right now CW seems to be pegging Ward as the slightest of favorites. Five Democrats are facing off at their convention a week from Sunday (11/19). RRH Elections last rated this general election as Safe R, though that was before Murphy’s scandal and resignation.