$14 Million Poured Into Georgia's Special Election

Lauren Perry
April 15, 2017

It's more tactical than that: What a special election really does is test the national parties.

There were signs of intra-party strife early on when Thompson complained that the Kansas Democratic Party turned down his request for a $25,000 postcard mailing. Only six months earlier, former Rep. Mike Pompeo, whose appointment as Central Intelligence Agency director triggered the special election, carried the district by a 31-point margin over Democrat Dan Giroux.

Thompson, who is pro-choice, won his party's nomination in February after pushback from voters over the possibility of the party selecting an anti-choice Democrat as its nominee.

Republicans considered the race - in a district President Donald Trump won by 27 points - a shoe-in, until an energized base propelled Democratic candidate Jim Thompson within range of a potential victory.

In a campaign email, Archie Parnell, one of three Democrats running for the 5th District seat, highlighted the results of the race in Kansas's 4th District, where the GOP candidate defeated his Democratic opponent by seven percentage points.

Estes received 53 percent of the vote in Kansas's 4th Congressional District, compared to Thompson's 46 percent.

"Republicans nationally should be very anxious", Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist, told the AP.

All of which leads us to conclude that there are national factors that spurred Thompson's surprisingly close loss. Observers are already looking to a special election for a House seat in Georgia next Tuesday, which has attracted more of the national spotlight and is expected to be very competitive.

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This ad attacking Republican front-runner Karen Handel for being, quite literally, a tree hugger, is typical of the intra-GOP battle in Georgia's sixth district.

What I am arguing is that it's possible - not certain, but possible - that Trump could end up proving much better for Democrats, and eventually for progressive goals, than a replacement-level Republican like, say, Marco Rubio might have.

While the Kansas result suggested some blowback against Trump, another important factor was anger with the state's unpopular Republican governor Sam Brownback. Democrats and other Trump critics in Kansas rallied around Thompson in hopes of dealing the White House a staggering defeat in its first months. Brownback also refused to expand the Medicaid health program for the poor. He says he wants to see if the GOP "can get something done" with Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.

"I can't stand Brownback", she said as she left her polling site in Belle Plaine. Republicans pulled in U.S. Sen.

Fearing potential fallout, Republicans injected last-minute money to help Estes while Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded get-out-the-vote phone calls on the candidate's behalf.

Included among them was Belle Plaine homemaker Charlene Health, 52, who cast her vote for Estes. As a sign of possible backlash against the GOP, Estes lost the district's most populous county, around the city of Wichita. Starting Tuesday, April 4, according to reports on file with the Federal Election Commission, they poured in $160,000 worth of advertising into the Wichita media market, with more than half of that spent on negative advertising against Thompson. "And we're going to make sure we change things in Washington".

Thompson, Estes and Libertarian Chris Rockhold are running to replace the former congressman, CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Other reports by VgToday

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