Moulton helped out in tight Pa. race

Courtesy photoSixth District Congressman Seth Moulton, D-Salem, middle left, speaks to supporters of Democrat Conor Lamb, middle right, ahead of a special election Tuesday outside of Pittsburgh. Lamb, a Democrat running in a special election in Pennsylvania's 18th District, won a narrow victory over Republican Rick Saccone. Moulton backed Lamb, a fellow Marine Corps veteran.

SALEM — Democrat Conor Lamb's slim victory in a Republican stronghold in 18th District in southwestern Pennsylvania may be a harbinger of success for Congressman Seth Moulton's strategy to get service-driven veterans and others elected to Congress.

"We certainly hope so," Moulton said Wednesday afternoon.

The Salem Democrat endorsed Lamb last year as part of Moulton's mission to take back Congress for the Democrats and put a check on President Donald Trump.

Moulton has been supporting veterans such as Lamb, many of whom find themselves in tight races in swing districts where their military service, service-driven mentality and fresh take on issues may have appeal.

The special election was seen as having national implications, however, because the district went for Trump by almost 20 percentage points in 2016.

Lamb's victory, albeit by a razor-thin margin, has been touted as the coming of the "blue wave" for the midterm elections in November. His Republican challenger, state Rep. Rick Saccone, figuratively bear hugged Trump, who held a rally for Saccone on Saturday.

Lamb, a former assistant U.S. attorney whose work included fighting the opioid epidemic, is one of 19 Democratic candidates with military and government service Moulton has endorsed for Congress, and it was one of the more high-profile races in which Moulton has been involved.

"A lot of people are asking about the national implications of this and not everyone gets it right," Moulton said.

It's not about which party someone belongs to, it's about having an amazing candidate, someone "willing to stand up to the establishment and status quo and represent the district," he said.

He also warned the win would not have been possible without activists, unions and volunteers, and the key will be to keep them energized until November. 

He said it is also wrong to think a blue wave is a forgone conclusion and the Democrats don't need to make any changes. Many Democrats are in tough races across the country, and, in some cases, they are not getting the support they need from the party.

Moulton said a lot of people gave up on Lamb's campaign, and he was one of the few invited to take part.

"I was proud to be there," Moulton said.

Moulton helped raise a considerable amount for Lamb's campaign, nearly $80,000, but he also did more than that.

Moulton, a recently married, 38-year-old Harvard-educated Marblehead native who served four tours of duty in Iraq, traveled to the district just outside of Pittsburgh to personally stump for Lamb.

Moulton's campaign said the congressman kicked off two canvasses and went door to door with Lamb.

Six of Moulton's staffers volunteered and knocked on more than 400 doors, and Moulton's campaign office in Salem hosted a phone bank Sunday evening.

Moulton said the district is made up mostly of working people, many of whom are struggling, others who have lost their jobs, while still others are struggling with the effects of the opioid epidemic. The district reminds him of parts of the 6th District in Massachusetts.

He said the reaction he got going door to door was: "A lot of people who said the status quo isn't working on either side and we need change."

But Moulton was no newcomer to Lamb's campaign. 

Lamb is pictured on Moulton's Serve America PAC's website, which features 19 Democratic candidates whose biographies outline their service. Most are veterans who joined the military after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Lamb completed his active duty in 2013. They both got out of the Marines with the rank of captain.

"The best recruiter we have is Donald Trump," Moulton said of finding veterans to run. So far, 56 Democratic veterans are running for House seats in 2018, meaning Moulton has, in fact, endorsed less than half of them.

In addition, Moulton has raised $80,000 for Lamb's campaign.

In the past six months, Moulton has raised more than $1.2 million to back the candidates he's endorsed, his campaign says.

Serve America PAC is Moulton's political action committee to recruit and support service-driven candidates, and $680,000 has been raised into this PAC.

In addition, another $608,000 has been raised for Moulton's Serve America Victory Fund, a joint fund that raises money for candidates through events, such as those held in Boston and New York City. The Serve America Victory Fund divvies up the cash evenly among its participating candidates and campaigns, according to Moulton's campaign.

So far, more than $645,000 has been donated to candidates and campaigns.

Additional efforts include media and campaign training, opportunities to build relationships with donors, plus access to Moulton's staff, regular conference calls with Moulton for advice.

As was been pointed out on CNN on Wednesday morning, Lamb has differences with Moulton on issues such as abortion and gun control. Moulton said those differences are healthy with a party.

"He is representing his district," Moulton said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.