PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While the local congressional race between U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb and Sean Parnell has been front and center, there’s another local race for Congress that is getting some national attention.
It was once rated solidly Republican, but the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Butler is taking the fight to Kelly. Some think she might have a shot at upsetting the 10-year incumbent.
“Congressman Mike Kelly is a millionaire car dealer who fights for tax breaks for car dealers, which tells you all you need to know,” says a hard-charging ad from Kristy Gnibus, Kelly’s opponent.
Gnibus — a teacher, single mom of three and ovarian cancer survivor — says Kelly is in this job for himself.
“He’s been in Congress for a decade now and lost his way. He’s no longer serving the people of western Pennsylvania,” Gnibus told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Gnibus, from Erie, says her real-life experiences qualify her to represent the 16th District, which stretches from Butler to Erie. But the district voted for President Donald Trump by 20 points, and Kelly, who is close to Trump, says that pays off.
“Two BUILD grants – $25 million to help with the 228 projects up in the Cranberry area and $21 million up in Erie for the Bayfront,” says Kelly.
Kelly makes no apologies for his car dealerships, saying auto dealers are strong contributors to the local community.
“Does your son or daughter play little league baseball or soccer? Who’s name is on the outfield fence? I guarantee you, it’s automobile dealers,” says the congressman.
Both candidates say this region is key to victory, with Kelly stressing his local roots and Gnibus her policies.
“Being local, understanding local issues, and having grown up here,” says Kelly.
“I will win Erie, but I have to win the southern counties for me to pull this off,” said Gnibus.