Republicans narrowly avoided an embarrassing defeat in the first congressional election of Donald Trump’s presidency on Tuesday, as the party retained a House seat in a deeply-red Kansas district that became surprisingly competitive.
Ron Estes, the Kansas state treasurer, held off Democrat James Thompson to win a special election to fill the seat vacated in January when conservative former Representative Mike Pompeo became CIA director. But the close result in a district Trump dominated in November was sure to jolt Republicans and buoy Democrats who will need a wave election to retake the House majority next year. With all precincts reporting, Estes had won, 53-46 percent.
The race had drawn little attention before the last few days because as Democrats were the first to acknowledge, they really had no business competing in Kansas’s 4th district. Reliably red for the last 22 years, the district went for Trump by 27 points in November, and in his three House campaigns, Pompeo never won less than 60 percent of the vote.
Both parties instead had looked to Georgia to wage the first competitive congressional battle of the Trump era. In a race to replace Tom Price, the former conservative lawmaker who became secretary of health and human services, Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more than $8 million from energized party donors and jumped out to a wide lead over a crowded field of Republicans. He hopes to win more than 50 percent of the vote on April 18 and avoid a runoff election in which a Republican would be favored.