GOP’s Keller Wins Pennsylvania’s Special House Election

May 22, 2019 Updated: May 22, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa.—Republican Fred Keller, a conservative state lawmaker, won the special election for Congress on Tuesday, May 21, in a heavily Republican district that sprawls across areas of central and northern Pennsylvania that are a stronghold for President Donald Trump.

Keller, of Snyder County, will replace Republican Tom Marino, who resigned in January after he emerged as a strong Trump ally in Congress.

President Donald Trump accompanied by Rep. Fred Keller,
President Donald Trump accompanied by Rep. Fred Keller, R-Snyder, arrive at a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Keller beat Democrat Marc Friedenberg in the 12th District, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 100,000.

On Monday night, Trump flew into the district for a campaign rally where he also touted Keller’s candidacy.

Keller, in turn, is a staunch advocate for Trump, appearing on stage with him at the rally in Montoursville and saying he wants to go to Congress to be a vote for the president.

The two-year term runs through 2020.

Keller, 53, is a fifth-term member of the state House, and one of its most conservative, with a 90 percent lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union.

Donald Trump Holds "MAGA" Rally In Central Pennsylvania
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Fred Keller, Republican candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district, during a ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign rally at Williamsport Regional Airport, in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The district covers all or parts of 15 counties and strongly backed Trump in the 2016 election, with Trump beating Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2-to-1 there.

Before he ran for the Legislature, Keller was a plant manager for a wood cabinet supplier and ran a real estate management business.

Friedenberg, a lawyer and Penn State information technology instructor, also ran in November and lost to Marino by 32 percentage points.

Friedenberg supported ideas that are popular on the Democratic Party’s left wing, including “Medicare for All”—shifting the nation’s health care system to a government-run “single-payer” plan—and the Green New Deal, a socialist plan that would give the government control over the economy.