Narrow loss in reliably red Kansas inspires Democrats to fight harder
Republicans held onto a Kansas congressional seat in Tuesday’s special election, though the margin was narrow for the overwhelmingly GOP district, giving Democrats hope heading into a more hotly contested race next week in Georgia.
Progressive groups touted the loss as a win, saying the returns showed the strength of the “resistance” against President Trump and gives them momentum with other elections looming.
Republicans, though, heralded Republican Ron Estes’ 53 percent to 46 percent victory over Democrat James Thompson in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District as proof that voters continue to support the GOP agenda and Mr. Trump, who made last-minute appeals for votes both with robocalls and on Twitter.
“President Trump called on Kansans to send Ron Estes to Washington to help Republicans cut taxes and fix health care and tonight that’s exactly what they did,” said Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
But liberal groups said the fact that the race was so close — Mr. Trump won the district by 27 percentage points last year — shows voters are tiring of the GOP, which now controls both houses of Congress as well as the White House.
“To fellow grass-roots progressives leading the resistance in the streets, at townhalls, and at the doors, these results are proof that our movement can have a profound impact at the ballot box in the months ahead,” said Jim Dean, head of Democracy for America. “If we can make Republicans go into full-on freakout mode in a ruby-red Kansas congressional district now, we have the power to rip the gavel out of [House Speaker] Paul Ryan’s hands in November 2018,” he said.
The Kansas seat was left vacant when Rep. Mike Pompeo resigned to become Mr. Trump’s CIA director.
Republicans will hold a 238-193 seat edge over Democrats in the House after Mr. Estes is sworn into office.
The next battle is Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, left open when Rep. Tom Price resigned to become Mr. Trump’s health secretary. Despite a large field of candidates, Democrats have rallied to Jon Ossoff, who raised $8.3 million during the first quarter of the year and is leading in the polls.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee urged activists to recognize that Kansas showed Mr. Ossoff can win next week.
“Trump only won this district by 1 percent,” the group said in an email blast. “A Republican loss here would send a bitter rebuke to Trump that shows Republicans across the country that Americans do not support Trump’s agenda.”
The Kansas race had percolated under the radar for weeks, but tighterthan-expected polling prompted a lastminute flurry of activity as Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded robocalls, and Sen. Ted Cruz came to campaign for Mr. Estes. The National Republican Committee invested close to $100,000 into television ads dinging Mr. Thompson, the Democrat, over his record on abortion.
On the Democratic side, some liberals felt they didn’t get enough support from their own party organizations in Washington.
“To the Washington Democratic insiders who wrote this race off before it began, it’s time to wake up and realize that the grass-roots expects this resistance effort to be waged unflinchingly in every single county and every single state across the country,” Mr. Dean said. “While Donald Trump is threatening the safety of marginalized communities, Democrats need to quit the dithering and ensure that Trump and his Congressional enablers feel politically unsafe in every corner of the country.”
Republican Ron Estes won narrowly in a special election in Kansas’ 4th district on Tuesday. The special election was held to fill the seat vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Democrats are saying that the narrow victory is a sign of backlash against the GOP.