President Donald Trump is backing a Christian nationalist Republican candidate in a Pennsylvania special election.
State Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) is running against former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb for the 18th congressional district seat vacated by Republican Tim Murphy, and the president will campaign in the district he won by 20 points.
“It’s you and me against the fake news in the fight to elect Republicans like Rick Saccone to Congress," Trump wrote in a campaign email.
“The president feels really great about those who are pushing for his agenda of lower taxes and fewer regulations and a stronger military, a well-funded military, people who believe in the coal-mining industry, steel, aluminum and manufacturing,” said White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who took part Thursday in a Saccone fundraiser. “And it seems that Rick Saccone is right there with the president on those issues and that’s important because the president wants reliable votes in Washington.”
The race is considered a tossup just days ahead of the March 13 special election, and the GOP is bracing for a potentially embarrassing defeat.
Saccone, a career foreign service officer who spent years on the Korean peninsula, initially announced last year that he would run for the U.S. Senate, but he later decided to shoot for the House seat that opened up when news broke that Murphy, a pro-life Republican, had asked his pregnant mistress to get an abortion.
Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton and Sam Rohrer, a former Pennsylvania state representative who now heads the American Pastors Network, led an opening prayer for Saccone's senatorial campaign.
Afterward, reported Right Wing Watch, Saccone appeared on Rohrer’s radio program, where he said that he is running for Congress because God wants “people who will rule with the fear of God in them to rule over us.”
Those comments, and Saccone's close association with Barton and Rohrer, illustrate his view of government as the political arm of the church.
Saccone credits divine intervention for Trump's election win and warns God will judge the United States for placing women in positions of political leadership, and he blamed the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub on LGBT rights.
“For two generations, our children have not been taught the virtue of the founding and the founders," Saccone said during a 2015 prayer rally. "Secularists have disparaged our past and erased any trace of our godly heritage. They deny American exceptionalism and they condemn patriotism. And I tell you this, if we don’t teach our children to honor God and love their country, the secularists will teach them not to.”