Why People Are Going Nuts Over a Special Election in Kansas

April 12th 2017

Mike Rothschild

As Democrats try to recover from the 2016 election, a few off-year House races have emerged as the first opportunities to strike back at the Trump administration. ATTN: profiled all five 2017 House elections, and the first competitive one took place Tuesday evening in the Kansas 4th Congressional District.

Pitting Republican Ron Estes against Democrat James Thompson, the race was expected to be a low-turnout cakewalk for the Republican. "Since there are twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats in the district, and [former seat holder Mike] Pompeo won by 31 points in 2016, and 34 in 2014, the seat is regarded as safe for Republicans," ATTN: reported in March.

But Democrats rose to the challenge, and made the election much more competitive - turning a normally little-noticed vote count into a Twitter frenzy.

With 100 percent of precincts having reported, Estes won by about 8,000 votes over Thompson, getting 52.5 percent, compared to Thompson's 45.7 percent. This 6.8 percent margin is substantially lower than the 31 percent Pompeo won the seat by in 2016. Also of note is that Thompson flipped Sedgwick County, home of Wichita and the most populated in the district. Trump won the county by 34,000 votes, but Thompson won it by 1,800.

Thompson's huge pick up in votes bodes well for Democrats running in two much more competitive special elections coming up: Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6th District on April 18, and Rob Quist in May's Montana At-Large seat election. Both are polling well, and Ossoff is seen as having a chance to avoid a runoff by getting over 50 percent of the primary vote.

The swing also serves as an early sign that the Republicans will struggle in the midterm election, as most victorious parties do after winning a presidential election.