Rick Saccone, the GOP pick to replace Tim Murphy, viewed as 'unabashedly' Christian

2017-11-14 | The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Nov. 14--Over six years of voting in the General Assembly, Republican Rep. Rick Saccone garnered perhaps the most public attention for his support of legislation promoting Christian values.

Saccone, the Republican Party's newly selected nominee for a March special election to represent the 18th Congressional District, promoted bills that would have allowed schools to display the national motto, "In God We Trust," and would have declared 2012 to be "The Year of the Bible."

In a speech following his nomination Saturday, Saccone, who represents the 39th legislative district covering parts of Allegheny and Washington counties, pledged that if elected to Congress he would pursue a conservative agenda in line with that of President Donald Trump.

His voting record supports the claim.

Conservative vote-tracking organization American Conservative Union found that Saccone voted with the group 83 percent of the time in 2016, opposing new taxes and expanded oil and gas regulation while supporting more restrictions on abortion, fewer restrictions on firearm ownership and strengthening oversight of government programs.

He voted with the National Federation of Independent Business 90 percent of the time in 2015 and 2016, according to the site, supporting legislation to reform public pensions, privatize liquor sales and pass a 2015-2016 budget that wouldn't have raised any taxes.

Saccone voted against legislation supported by the American Civil Liberties Union 75 percent of the time on bills it tracked in 2015-2016: He voted with the organization on a bill requiring training on mental health and intellectual disabilities for police and he supported a bill to allow the sealing of some misdemeanor records after a period of years without another conviction.

He voted against the organization when he supported mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions, protested a moratorium on executions and supported penalties for local governments that don't acquiesce to federal immigration authorities.

He cast no votes in line with the Marijuana Policy Project and voted 9 percent of the time with the Pennsylvania Environmental Scorecard.

He supported the "In God We Trust" proposal -- which would have allowed but not required schools to post the motto -- as a way to unify the country, he said when the proposal cleared the House in a 2016 vote. It remains stalled in committee in the Senate.

The Bible proposal failed after a lawsuit from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

"He is unabashedly a Christian," said Washington County Republican Party spokesman Dave Ball. "He supports Christian values. He's been a supporter of having those values as part of the American value system."

Saccone's record appeals to rural Washington County Republicans who support Trump and oppose "big government and government interference," Ball said.

"He has said very clearly that when he goes to Congress he'll be a very conservative voice and he'll support the president and he'll support the president's agenda," he said. "He'll support a pro-American agenda."

Voters in the 18th District, which covers parts of Washington, Westmoreland, Allegheny and Greene counties, will vote in a special election March 13 on a candidate to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy, who resigned last month in the wake of an extramarital scandal.

Republicans selected Saccone over state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills and state Sen. Kim Ward of Hempfield.

Democrats will select a nominee Sunday in Washington, Pa.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.