"We've sent a message that no Republican district is safe." Strong words from Democrat James Thompson, who ceded the congressional seat for Kansas' 4th District on Tuesday night to opponent Ron Estes after a fierce push by the GOP to win Estes the seat, Politico reports. Although Estes, 60, beat Thompson 53% to 46%, that seven-point margin was substantially slimmer than the 27-point lead Donald Trump enjoyed when he won that district himself—a "sharp turnaround" triggered by an "energized Democratic base," Politico notes. Thompson says he's going to vie for the seat again in 2018. It was a surprisingly close outcome for a race that the New York Times notes wasn't even on most people's radar until the last week or so. Estes will fill the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo to become CIA director.
While the GOP may now be warily eyeing 2018 races, others says special elections aren't always indicative of larger trends. "I would not say this is any kind of referendum on Donald Trump," Kelly Arnold, Kansas' GOP chair, said before Tuesday's vote. But Thompson seemed cheery even in defeat. "Mr. Estes did not beat us," he said. "It took a president of the United States, the vice president, the speaker of the House, a senator coming into our state, and a bunch of lies to try to drum up a vote." For his part, Estes crowed at his victory speech late Tuesday: "The pundits were talking about—this wasn’t a seat we were going to win,” he said. "We really showed the pundits tonight, didn't we?" The AP notes the next special election, to be held in Georgia on April 18 to fill the seat left open by HHS Secretary Tom Price, may be "tougher" to win.