MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone early Tuesday refused to back away from his comments claiming that many Democrats have “hatred for our country” as he prepared to cast his ballot in the state’s special House election.

Speaking to reporters outside the church where he voted, Saccone referenced the “hateful” messages he receives on social media as proof of his claim. 

“A lot of people have come up to me, they see some of the vile comments I get on Twitter and Facebook, and people come up to me and tell me to take my religion and go away, all those kinds of things,” Saccone, a vocal conservative Christian, said.

“Really, really hateful comments.”

Saccone said a portion that criticism comes from outside his Pittsburgh-area district, remarking that “I don’t even know if some of those people are from here.”

During a Monday night rally with President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE‘s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr. praises ‘spirit’ of poverty-stricken Indians: ‘Still a smile on a face’ State Dept. says it did not coordinate with Trump Jr. on India speech The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE, Saccone blasted Democrats by questioning their support of the country and God.

“I’ve talked to so many of these on the left. And they have a hatred for our president. I tell you, many of them have a hatred for our country,” he said.

“My wife and I saw it again, they have a hatred for God.”

The Republican comes into Tuesday’s special election trailing in the most recent polls, even though President Trump won the district in 2016 by 20 points.

Republicans have focused heavily on the district, with the national party apparatus and outside groups far eclipsing the Democratic effort by spending more than $10 million here. The White House has sent top surrogates like Vice President Pence to the district in recent weeks, too.

The Democratic effort has been smaller, both in scope and footprint, as the party seeks to help Democrat Conor Lamb while not painting him with the national party brand that’s taken a hit in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Even so, Saccone on Tuesday sought to play up the Democratic effort.

“The Democrats are trying their best. They are throwing everything they can at this race because there hasn’t been an open seat here in a long time,” he said, shortly before walking into the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

While Saccone was talkative when he entered, it was a different story when he emerged.

The candidate walked out while video chatting with his son, an airman based in South Korea who Saccone said voted absentee for his father.

He held up his cell phone to the throng of reporters, exposing a phone case depicting an eagle with a “Trump” sticker slapped on the back, as he joked with his son about the media presence there.

“It’s a mob scene. Look at these reporters!” he shouted to his son.

“The fake news is here.”

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