Six months ago, we’d be reporting the victory of Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district special election like it was a huge upset. But after repeated unexpected special and local election victories for Democrats in hotly contested, formerly Republican-held seats, let’s just call this a mild surprise. The fact is, this trend of higher voter turnout and flipped seats is picking up steam, and we should expect to see more shakeups this year. It’s valuable to note Democrats aren’t winning in Republican strongholds on purely partisan grounds; their candidates seem to be winning because they have a pulse on local issues and speak to them. Lamb is not a typical Democrat, most notably because he’s pro-Second Amendment and a coal industry supporter. But Lamb is also a union supporter, and publicly backs pro-choice policies despite his personal opposition to abortion. This hybrid platform reminds us that voters and districts are more purple than polarized, and Lamb’s success connecting to voters on local priorities while ignoring the distracting national hoopla has given candidates another strategy to consider as midterms heat up.

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