You don’t know Ron Estes? Most people don’t. But President Trump does.
In fact, the new president has already recorded a robocall to help Estes win big in today’s special election in Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District. And so has Vice President Mike Pence. And Speaker Paul Ryan is raising money for him. And Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned for the Estes there last night.
“Our enemy right now is complacency,” said Cruz.
What’s this all about? Well, it’s really a problem of Trump’s own making. The district’s popular congressman, Mike Pompeo, isn’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. Trump snatched him out of the House of Representatives and put him in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency.
This is the very first such special election of several across the country necessary because Trump tapped congressional Republicans for his executive team. So, it will draw extra attention as a political indicator of Trump’s heartland fortunes.
Based around Wichita, home of Koch Industries, the Fourth should be a safe seat for Republicans, having elected only one Democrat in 50 years. But special elections typically have low turnouts, a tempting sight for challengers in districts long held by an over-confident party. It’s a holiday week. Many of the south central Kansas district’s voters are still on spring break. And as State Treasurer, the 60-year-old Estes, not the most electric campaigner, is tied to the unpopular Gov. Sam Brownback.
So, there’s a last-minute sense of GOP concern and infusion of cash because an upset by Democrat James Thompson — or even a close call — would render a premature but telling verdict on Trump’s presidency. Thompson is a Wichita civil rights attorney known for taking on homeless legal cases. Like Estes, he was nominated by party convention, not a primary vote. Thompson has positioned himself as a Bernie Sanders supporter.
Trump captured the Fourth District by about 27 points in November. But Pompeo captured his fourth term by 31 points the same night.
Last week the Inside Elections/Roll Call changed its rating on the special Fourth’s race from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.
Next week comes the more closely-watched special election for the House seat in Georgia’s Sixth District vacated by Rep. Tom Price, now Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary.