What do the Kansas and Georgia elections tell us about 2018?

Cheryl Sanders
April 16, 2017

In last night's special election in Kansas's 4th congressional district - a deeply red region - the Republican candidate, Ron Estes, eked out a victory over Democrat James Thompson to claim Mike Pompeo's seat, which the former representative vacated to head up the Central Intelligence Agency under President Donald Trump.

Democrat Jon Ossoff - a documentary filmmaker - is one of 18 candidates vying for Georgia's 6th congressional district seat, which had been occupied by now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was supported nearly entirely by individual small-dollar donors, while Estes had to lean on 11th-hour support from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and a massive ad buy from the National Republican Congressional Committee to survive the race.

Republicans get some credit: They saw some potentially embarrassing danger in the Kansas race, they reacted, and they won.

The Republicans infused the Estes campaign with additional funds, produced automated phone calls recorded by Trump, and sent in Republican US Senator Ted Cruz on Monday to campaign on Estes' behalf.

That's a relatively small margin in Kansas' right-leaning 4th district, which Trump won by 27 points and Pompeo won by more than 30 points in November.

The National Republican Congressional Committee channeled $92,000 into the race in its final days.


"Everything in the conservative platform is good for us", he said. Located in the middle of the country, they often act as a signpost, revealing how people in the USA feel about politics and where the country is headed. "It's a sign that the Democrats had a candidate that made the most of an opportunity and came very close".

However, such a portrayal leaves out a crucial detail: The Kansas-04 election was influenced primarily by the extreme unpopularity of Kansas governor Sam Brownback, a Republican who has been in office since 2011.

"The message I kept hearing over and over again was they really wanted to change things in Washington, and they wanted to continue on with what President Trump has started", he said.

It came just a few months into the Trump administration and observers were watching the race to see if there was a political reaction, Schmidt said.

In the past, special election upsets were trembles of a big wave coming against the party in power.

The last time I recall the press being so excited about losing a special-election congressional race in a perceived safe GOP district, Republican Jean Schmidt defeated Paul Hackett in Ohio's Second District by 3.3 points in 2005.


But no major national Democratic figures comparable to Cruz parachuted into the district to campaign, nor did Democratic groups match the financial resources of the Republicans.

Speaking on "The Chris Salcedo Show", the Texas Republican told the radio host that he stumped for GOP candidate Ron Estes because "the numbers were looking close" - and that his party should view the narrow margin as a red flag.

"I wasn't even going to vote", she said as she left her polling site Tuesday morning.

The Republican Party had to scramble furiously, in ways no one expected, to win by about 8 percentage points.

The special election Tuesday between Democrat James Thompson and Republican Ron Estes to fill the seat vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo is being watched across the nation for signs of a backlash against Republicans.


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