A U.S. House seat is up for grabs in Pennsylvania after Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat, left to run for U.S. Senate in a race he ultimately lost to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the Democratic primary.
Attorney and Iraq War veteran Chris Deluzio is determined to keep the 17th Congressional District “blue” while former local township commissioner Jeremy Shaffer is the candidate Republicans hope will prevail and allow the party to flip the seat.
If Republicans achieve a net gain of five seats in the 435-seat chamber this November, they would recapture the majority they lost in 2018.
Both candidates decisively won their respective primaries.
Deluzio defeated Sean Meloy by almost 27 percentage points, while Shaffer received 58.7 percent of the vote compared to 24.3 percent for Jason Killmeyer and 17 percent for Kathleen Coder.
Shaffer was added to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) “Young Guns” program, which is led by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and provides candidates with “the tools they need” to win.
Deluzio is part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which provides candidates considered “top-tier” with organizational and fundraising support.
The NRCC has booked around $3 million in advertising spots to support Shaffer. The DCCC has pledged $1.4 million in advertisements. Other committees related to both parties have indicated they will pour millions of dollars into the race.
The 17th district is located in western Pennsylvania and includes Beaver County and a broad portion of Allegheny County in suburban Pittsburgh. Redistricting has made it friendlier to Democrats.
The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the race as a toss-up. Inside Elections calls the district “Tilt Democratic,” while FiveThirtyEight ranks it as “slightly Democrat.”
Deluzio graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and served as a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy, including a tour in Iraq.
When he returned, Deluzio earned a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington and joined the Brennan Center for Justice, working on the Voting Rights and Election Security teams.
He is now the policy director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security.
Deluzio is emphasizing his pro-abortion stance, and Shaffer’s anti-abortion beliefs.
Earlier this month, Deluzio told CBS Pittsburgh that “we saw a 60 percent bump in fundraising” in the initial days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“Whether they’re Democrats, Independents, Republicans, they’re furious at what the Supreme Court has done in gutting the right to an abortion, overturning decades of precedent,” Deluzio said. “And I think women especially are angered and fired up and willing to fight for their rights.
“The contrast is obvious. He’s an extremist on abortion,” Deluzio added about Shaffer. “He’s taken the position that there should be no exceptions for rape or incest. He’s called for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions nationwide.”
During a debate before the Republican primary in May, Shaffer said, “I believe very strongly in our federal system of government, which means that when hopefully Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will revert back to the individual states to decide.”
Shaffer also said that any federal action should be implemented with a constitutional amendment.
“Any time the Democrats are in power, then it’s going to flip to the extreme,” he said.
Shaffer has also said that he supports exceptions for rape and incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk.
Shaffer earned a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and an MBA from the University of North Carolina.
He served as Ross Township commissioner in suburban Pittsburgh and is the founder of a company that provides software to inspect bridges, roads, and other infrastructure.
“I am something of an enigma of a candidate. I stand up for what I believe in and what is right,” Shaffer said in an interview with Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate.
Shaffer added that he is conservative but “I don’t necessarily hold to a view because it’s what my party says.” He added that “I would have probably been one of the few Republican votes” for President Joe Biden’s 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Thirteen House Republicans voted for the $1.2 trillion bill, drawing criticism from former President Donald Trump.
“Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the ‘Non-Infrastructure’ Bill,” Trump said in a statement after the measure was passed last November. “All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Mitch McConnell, for granting a two-month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!”
Shaffer recently said that he would have joined the 47 House Republicans who voted for the Respect for Marriage Act, which Deluzio also approves.
Shaffer, who ran for state Senate in 2018 and lost by a slim margin in the general election, thinks that he has a crossover appeal that will help him in the 17th district.
“Solving problems and improving quality of life should not be a partisan issue,” Shaffer told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “As a congressman, I will use my skills as a problem-solver and entrepreneur to work with anyone to solve the issues that matter most to Western Pennsylvanians.”