This story has been updated since its original publication.
Republican State Sen. Kim Ward, who has served her Westmoreland County district since 2009, announced a run for embattled U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s seat during a hectic afternoon that saw the congressman abruptly announce his intention to resign in two weeks.
Murphy, a notoriously anti-choice congressman, recently announced that he would not seek another term in PA's 18th Congressional District after it emerged that he had pressured his mistress into seeking an abortion during a pregnancy scare. Today, he announced that he would resign effective Oct. 21, triggering a special election.
Ward's campaign kickoff announcement came just an hour later.
"I am announcing my candidacy to represent the hardworking people of southwestern Pennsylvania in the United States Congress," she stated in a press release. "People are sick of being disappointed by Washington. They want Congress to keep the promise to replace Obamacare with a plan that helps to make affordable health care accessible, achieve much-needed tax reform and protect our borders."
Ward’s political career began under then-rising star Rick Santorum in the 1990s. She parlayed her experience into a career as a political consultant before running for a county commissioner seat in Western PA in 2006 and her subsequent election to her current seat in PA’s 39th Senatorial district.
The battle for Murphy’s seat, which covers portions of the Pittsburgh metro area, will be heated. Other Republicans, like Allegheny County Councilman Sam DeMarco and Allegheny County GOP chairman D. Raja were also rumored to be eyeing Murphy’s soon-to-be-vacated seat. Fellow state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler announced his candidacy yesterday.
Murphy's rapid-fire resignation will likely trigger a battle between Ward and Reschenthaler. A candidate for the special election will be selected through a complex process that is largely driven by Republican county committee members in the 18th District. Whichever candidate they nominate to stand in the special election will also be the heavy favorite to win the Republican primary nomination. Both elections will likely take place on the same day in 2018.
Democratic candidates for the seat have been energized as well by the shocking details that lead to Murphy’s abrupt retirement. Former Naval officer Pam Iovino, former school teacher and Allegheny Councilman Mike Crossey, and Bob Solomon have all announced their intention to run in the traditionally Republican-leaning district. But political observers gave Democrats long odds in a district that went heavily in favor of President Donald Trump in 2016.