Republicans held off a surprisingly strong Democratic challenge for a Kansas House seat in the first congressional election since President Donald Trump's November victory.
The margin of victory Tuesday for Republican Ron Estes in the Kansas 4th District special election slid to only seven percentage points from a 31-point margin in November, when incumbent Mike Pompeo was running before he was appointed Trump's Central Intelligence Agency director.
Despite the very conservative district - where a Democrat has not held a House seat since 1994 - and the last-minute GOP star power, Estes won by only a 53-45 percent margin, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
More immediately, Kansas's results will likely rev up progressive momentum in a more high-profile special election coming up in a week outside Atlanta, where 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff is trying to win a majority of the vote against some 16 mostly Republican candidates to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
In the final days of the special election campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) funneled $92,000 into the race on behalf of Estes-$67,000 went to TV advertising in the Wichita market, the largest city in the state and home of GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch.
Trump tweeted his support for Estes on the day of the election, saying the state treasurer is a "wonderful guy". Democrats are expected to maintain a California seat vacated by former Rep. Xavier Becerra, now the state's attorney general.
Libertarian Chris Rockhold trailed a distant third in the race.More news: Pence visits Japan, turning focus to trade with key ally
In Kansas, one factor was Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who remains unpopular because the state has faced serious budget problems since the governor and GOP lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013.
"I wasn't even going to vote", she said as she left her polling site Tuesday morning. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) campaigned with the candidate on Monday.
Only Sedgwick County showed Thompson ahead of Estes. Republicans pulled in U.S. Sen. The civil rights lawyer is a Bernie Sanders Democrat and proudly touted his endorsement from the 2016 presidential candidate's political group, Our Revolution. "That means Democrats will need to swipe at least a handful of districts carried by Mitt Romney four years ago to win control, and that is a huge, uphill fight for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee". Located in the middle of the country, they often act as a signpost, revealing how people in the U.S. feel about politics and where the country is headed.
Even if Estes were to win by, say, 15 points, that would represent a collapse of a dozen points compared to Trump's win.
The Democratic candidate who ran an unexpectedly competitive race in a special congressional election in Kansas plans to run for the seat again in 2018. The two have spent about $7 million in the Georgia race, according to independent expenditure reports filed with the FEC.
"This race is as much about the next year and a half nationally as it is about district", Rothenberg said.