A late push for Republican state treasurer Ron Estes was enough to keep Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District in the hands of the GOP, as Estes narrowly defeated Democrat James Thompson in the Kansas special election on Tuesday night for the House of Representatives seat vacated by former representative Mike Pompeo, according to The Wichita Eagle.
At approximately 9:45 p.m. Central, The New York Times officially called the race for Estes. With all but one of the precincts reporting, the Republican led with 53.3 percent of the vote, putting an end to Democrat hopes of an upset in one of the most Republican congressional districts in the nation. The special election came about when Pompeo resigned to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The remainder of the votes were set to come in from Sedgwick County, which is home to Wichita and provided the majority of Thompson’s support in the Kansas special election. However, despite Sedgwick County making up well over half of the votes in the district, Thompson’s margin there was just over 3,000 votes, well short of the number he needed to make up Estes’ narrow margin at the end of the race.
The vote was a surprisingly close outcome, according to the official Kansas Election Results page, given that the Fourth District has not voted for a Democrat in over two decades and is considered one of the safest Republican seats in the nation. Although president Donald Trump eked out a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in November, the Fourth District of Kansas wasn’t one of the areas where the vote was close, as the voters in the southern part of the Sunflower State chose the mogul by 27 points.
Estes didn’t fare nearly as well in the Kansas special election. Despite the Democratic National Committee investing almost nothing in Thompson, the Democrat was able to parlay frustration with both Trump and Kansas governor Sam Brownback into a reasonable shot at victory. The possibility of losing the seat spooked Republicans enough to send Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to the state to drum up support and had Trump call on behalf of Estes.
For the Democrats, the narrow loss will likely fuel the narrative that Trump’s unpopularity will cost Republicans badly in the 2018 midterm elections, given that Thompson lost . However, it remains to be seen whether Thompson’s late charge for the seat was related more to Trump or to Brownback’s disastrous term as Kansas’ governor.
A telling clue as to the far-reaching impact of the Kansas special election will come next week in Georgia, where Democrat Jon Ossoff is making a play for the seat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. While Ossoff is the favorite to capture the most votes, Georgia uses a jungle primary system, requiring the top two vote-getters to face off in a run-off election, unless the winner captures a simple majority of votes. An outright win for Ossoff would serve as proof that the Kansas election was a sign of things to come, rather than a one-time expression of frustration with Brownback and the GOP.
Readers, how much do you read into the results in Kansas? Is Trump a liability for Republicans? Or was this simply a result of a special election and more of a referendum on Brownback? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell