So, about that special election in Kansas
Republicans survived a scare in Kansas’s 4th Congressional District on Tuesday night, winning a deeply conservative district that was starting to look like it might slip into Democratic control at the last minute.
Republican Ron Estes, the state’s treasurer, defeated civil rights attorney and Democrat Jim Thompson, according to the Associated Press. As of around 10:45pm, Estes was ahead by about eight points.
The outcome does not radically alter the composition of power in Washington. Right now Republicans control 238 seats to Democrats’ 194; a one-seat switch, obviously, wouldn’t do much to loosen that majority.
Next week, Democrats and Republicans will get a rematch in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District — where Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more money and is doing better in polling than almost anyone predicted.
But, for now, today’s win gives Republicans room to breathe a little easier. Democrats crushed by Donald Trump’s presidency dreamed that they’d begin reversing the tide with this election, the first congressional race since Trump’s Inauguration. Instead, they came up short.
Still, it’s worth stepping back and looking at just how surprising it is that Democrats were competitive at all in the Kansas 4th District.
The race opened up after Donald Trump appointed former Rep. Mike Pompeo as the director of the CIA. The district is so deeply red that it’s long flown far below the radar of most of the national media. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by 27 points. Democrats haven’t held the seat since 1994, and Pompeo won it last fall 61 to 30.
It’s the home of Koch Industries, the company owned by conservative superdonors Charles and David Koch. Internal polling from the Thompson campaign shows Trump’s approval rating in the district remains above 50 percent.
Democrats didn’t spend money on the race, signaling that they thought the race was a lost cause and instead concentrating their resources on a special election in Georgia where they have a much better chance to win. (Already, critics have argued national Democrats blew a missed opportunity.) The Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic and Ryan Grim reported on Sunday that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has largely avoided the race, likely a sign that they don’t view it as winnable.
“There are thousands of elections every year … Can we invest in all of them? That would require a major increase in funds,” Democratic National Committee Chair Thomas Perez told the Washington Post. (National Democrats have started a phone campaign Monday to reach 25,000 households, according to the Kansas City Star.)
Republicans had confidently projected victory. “The Democrats think so much of their candidate there that they’ve spent zero dollars,” Corry Bliss, executive director of the Republican-allied Congressional Leadership Fund, told the Post. “We’ll win the Kansas election by double digits.”
We’re still waiting for a final tally, but it looks possible that national Democrats may regret holding their firepower in what may have been a winnable race.