Republican Ron Estes wins tight special election for US House seat

PHOTO: GOP congressional candidate in the 4th district Ron Estes votes at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.PlayJaime Green/The Wichita Eagle via AP
WATCH Republican Ron Estes wins tight special election for US House seat

Republican Ron Estes has won a special election for the U.S. House seat for Kansas' 4th Congressional District, according to The Associated Press.

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In this conservative, rural district, which President Donald Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in November, anxious Republicans made a frantic push in the campaign's final days, calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to send a fundraising request and asking Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to record robocalls to help get out the vote. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made a visit to the district Monday.

Despite the redness of the district — a Democrat has not held its House seat since 1995 — and the last-minute GOP star power, Estes won with only 52.5 percent of the vote, to Democrat James Thompson's 45.7 percent, with all precincts reporting. Estes' margin of victory was far smaller than those for his predecessor Mike Pompeo (who who left to become Trump's CIA director) and for Trump in the district in 2016.

So what does it mean? It's important to note that local politics mattered in this race. Gov. Sam Brownback has been vastly unpopular in the state because of budget problems, and Estes was his state treasurer.

Still, the close finish signals that Democrats were able to rally anti-Trump sentiment into votes and Republicans may have lost some enthusiasm with the bumps in Trump's first months in office. People will be looking even more closely at a special election next Tuesday for a House seat in Georgia, which has attracted more of the national spotlight and is expected to be very competitive.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.