The Craziest Thing About The Pennsylvania Special Election Isn't Even Who Won

"I thought to myself, 'Maybe I could be the one who changes that.'"

Pundits and politicians alike have been obsessing over the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. The hotly contested race flipped a long-red district to blue and resulted in buzzy victory for first-time candidate Conor Lamb. But while most of the discussion over the race and its results has been focused on what the Pennsylvania Democrat's win presages for purple district Republicans in November's midterms, the little-told story of third-party candidate Drew Miller may be even more interesting.

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After more than 228,000 votes were cast, Lamb narrowly won the race by 627 votes over Republican Rick Saccone, per The New York Times' final tally. But Miller, who ran for the Libertarian Party, received 1,379 votes and in doing so became "the most hated man in America,"  as he joked on Twitter. Suddenly, he became part of the story for "covering the spread," as he put it in an interview with A Plus. If less than half of his votes had gone to Saccone, Miller could have swung the entire race. 

So, for some, the  craziest thing about the Pennsylvania special election isn't who took the lion's share of votes: it's what the third-party candidate demonstrated by running at all. And by carrying enough votes to potentially swing the entire election. 

He certainly showed that every vote counts.

"There definitely is this notion that I essentially stole votes from Rick Saccone," Miller told A Plus. "But I don't necessarily believe that's what occurred. It definitely goes to show you that every vote does count, and those 1,300 people that voted for me could have determined the outcome of this election. It was their votes that really mattered and sent a message."

Drew Miller campaign

Miller insisted that if you're fed up with the divisiveness of Washington, D.C., the best thing you can do is vote for a third-party candidate to send a message. He says that elections have become a lot like the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh last year: people were rooting against the New England Patriots, not for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

"For me, what it has always been about is I hate walking into a voting booth and only having one or at the very most two options," Miller said. "I just didn't think that was how democracy was supposed to work... this recent election I thought to myself, 'Maybe I could be the one who changes that.'"

Despite being on the ballot, the coverage of Miller in the media leading up to the election was almost nonexistent. His face was never shown on television during coverage of the race from national news outlets, and his campaign had to call local newspapers and ask them to include his name in stories about the election. It was especially frustrating because Miller felt he was the most qualified, citing Lamb's lack of legislative experience and what he described as Saccone's disregard for the separation of church and state.

"The media never wants to talk about these third-party candidates," Miller said. "But I'm really glad I was able to present another viewpoint. People are tired of this divisiveness in Washington right now... I'm fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I draw from the best sides of both parties." 

Conor Lamb campaign images.

Miller could see a little bit of overlap between himself and the two other candidates. He felt like all three were against weapons bans, and noted that he was glad to see a younger candidate like Lamb headed for D.C. But while Miller campaigned mostly for younger voters, he said that Lamb ran on a message about Medicare and Medicaid, almost exclusively campaigning for elder Americans.

Asked who he would have voted for if he had to, Miller dismissed the question. Instead, he told A Plus, it's much more interesting to think about who Lamb or Saccone would vote for if they had a choice between Miller and the other candidate.

"I guarantee you, a 100 percent, they would have both rather voted for me than the other candidate," Miller said. "I think that they saw that I was the most qualified candidate on the ballot."

The 18th Congressional district... which will cease to exist in its current form just in time for midterms in November.

Miller believes his role in the much-discussed race has ignited a spark, and while he's unsure of his own future, he thinks third-party candidates will become more and more important going forward. Part of that has to do with a new law. Previously, in Pennsylvania, third-party candidates had to collect as many as 30 times the number of signatures to run for office as Democrats and Republicans, per The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But Lamb and other third-party enthusiasts fought the law, and the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania ruled it unconstitutional. Now, the number of signatures needed are capped at 5,000 for third-party candidates, which means there may be a lot more of them in the coming years.

"I don't have any regrets at all," Miller said. "Everyone I talked to who voted for me, they feel really, really good about voting for me. I don't know if a lot of the voters could say that who voted for Conor Lamb or Rick Saccone." 

In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ruled Pennsylvania's districts to be redrawn after it established that the districts had been gerrymandered to favor Republicans. When the new districts are implemented before the 2018 midterms, Miller will be the only one of the special election candidates left who actually lives in the 18th District.

Cover image via  Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com.

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