Kansas special election: A Democrat came surprisingly close to an upset in a deep-red district – Updated by Jeff Stein Apr 11, 2017, 10:46pm EDT


Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

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.

Nobody thought this race would be remotely competitive

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.

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