The candidates’ tariff sentiments echo the blurring of party lines seen in a pivotal western Pennsylvania special election earlier this year. After Trump proposed the steel and aluminum tariffs in March, both Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone showed at least measured support for the policy as they ran for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 18th District.
Lamb, who won the election by a slim margin and will serve in the House at least into January, is now trying to beat GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus in the state’s new 17th District. On his campaign website, Rothfus touts his 2015 vote against Trade Promotion Authority, which gave then-President Barack Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Trump pulled the U.S. from the agreement, saying it harmed American workers.
It is unclear now how exactly tariffs will influence voters — though political damage in Pennsylvania will likely be easier to contain than in other states more heavily affected. In the farmer Beam’s case, the hit to the soybean business has not changed his conservative leanings.
Beam’s home and scattered 3,500 acres of farmland sit off of rolling country roads near the borders of Pennsylvania’s new 6th District. Democrats also aim to take that seat — which stretches from the western Philadelphia suburbs to the north through the city of Reading. Retiring Rep. Ryan Costello currently represents the district, and he has signed on to legislation that would limit Trump’s ability to impose tariffs.
“It would send a strong signal to Pennsylvania workers and families that Congress is committed to supporting American jobs and a strong economy,” Costello said in a statement earlier this month.
Weather and trade policy, among other factors, have contributed to a challenging year for farmers, Beam said. He voted for Trump and understands why the president has tried to crack down on China’s trade practices.
While Beam said he has not followed redistricting or November’s congressional races closely enough yet, he noted that he still supports Trump despite the hit to his soybean business.
“If the election was today, and Hillary [Clinton] was on the ticket and Trump was on the ticket, I’d absolutely vote the same way. Without a doubt,” he said.