Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
Entertainment | By Johnnie Parsons

Republicans survive election scare, win Kansas House seat

Republicans survive election scare, win Kansas House seat

Republican Ron Estes won a special election in Kansas Tuesday for the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, President Trump's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

The more important question, though, ought to be what, if anything, does the race between Republican State Treasurer Ron Estes and first-time Democratic candidate James Thompson portend about the next round of congressional races in 2018?

Democrat challenger James Thompson lost the mostly-rural district by only about eight percentage points, or just over 9,000 votes, by the time the race was called late Tuesday night.

National Republicans mobilized last week to try to prop up Estes and avert a disaster. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.

Estes took all but one county (Sedgwick, whose county seat is Wichita, which Thompson took by fewer than 1,900 votes), and won by 6.8 percent of the vote.

Thompson's success is remarkable, considering he has had very little support from the state or national Democratic party.

In the District 4 Congressional Special Election, Estes took 815 votes (73 percent). But Democratic civil rights attorney James Thompson has made Tuesday's special election for a Kansas House seat long held by Republicans surprisingly competitive.

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Estes' Democratic opponent Thompson, a civil rights attorney and veteran of the Army, has raised almost a quarter of a million dollars in the last week from progressive grassroots efforts. Special elections favor organized activists more than regular elections do because of the significantly lower turnout they produce, and progressive activists had targeted this seat for quite a while.

The Kansas seat is one of the reddest of the five House seats vacated in the Trump era, four of them by Republicans who joined the new administration. It didn't even make the overly ambitious list of 60 Republican seats that were dubbed "initial targets" that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released January 30.

But Thomas Hauser, 67, of Belle Plaine, a Republican who works in the information technology industry, said he crossed party lines in Tuesday's election to vote for Thompson. National resources from both parties flooded into the race, but most importantly, Donald Trump himself began to campaign on Estes' behalf. In addition, though, at least two other congressional districts in Kansas are now seen as potentially in play.

Democrats' defeat in Kansas likely deals a blow to their momentum going into next week's nationally watched Georgia special election, although the national party had been reluctant to invest in the Kansas race.

Some Republicans are blaming the "no energy" way Estes campaigned, while others are critical of the TV ad showing him standing in a swamp and asking voters to help him drain it, according to the Star. Last November, Trump carried the district by 30 points. Republicans are aiming to keep Ossoff below the majority required to win outright, forcing a two-person runoff - basically a Republican v. Democrat general election - on June 20. Just days before the election, his campaign spokesman said they received financial support from more than 8,500 people.

Analysts say Libertarian candidate Chris Rockhold's bid for public office was a long-shot. The national mood has been shaped by anger and resistance, and when Democrats run charismatic candidates who can listen to voters, they will be competitive even in the most conservative parts of the country.

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