A ruby-red Republican district in Kansas where Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton just five months ago stayed in GOP hands Tuesday night even as Democrats dramatically closed the margin in the state — an outcome sure to send shivers through Republicans facing reelection in 2018 in less favorable districts.
With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, state Treasurer Ron Estes was declared the winner of the first congressional election since Donald Trump won the White House, taking more than 53 percent of the vote. The special election in Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District had pitted Estes against civil rights attorney and army veteran James Thompson for the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, now Trump’s CIA director. Libertarian Chris Rockhold also ran.
Thompson won more than 45 percent of the vote — a percentage more than 15 points higher than that garnered by the Democrat who ran in the district last November.
Kansas is not a swing state in presidential elections, and the last time a Democrat won its Fourth Congressional District was 1992. This past fall, Pompeo bested his Democratic rival by 31 percentage points, and Trump won the district by a 27 percent margin of victory.
Thompson’s under-the-radar campaign in the district proved to have surprising momentum, thanks to disillusionment in the state with the policies of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and Thompson’s own authentic-seeming message of helping the working class.
His ability to close the margin forced national Republicans to pitch in to bolster Estes over the final weeks of the race in what should have been an easy Republican seat to hold.
“Mr. Estes did not beat us. It took a president of the United States, a vice president, the speaker of the House, a senator coming into our state, and a bunch of lies to try to drum up the vote,” Thompson said after his loss.
Kansas has been going through a wrenching political period after a Republican experiment with massive tax cuts led to budgetary…