A Political Storm Rolls Out of Kansas
Elections, Featured Story

A Political Storm Rolls Out of Kansas

Special Election Pits a Local Civil Rights Attorney Against Trump, Brownback and the Koch Brothers

Democrats get their first chance to chip away at Republican control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday when voters in the conservative 4th District of Kansas will select a new congressman.

Civil rights attorney James Thompson, a Democrat, is running against Republican State Treasurer Ron Estes. The seat is vacant because former Rep. Mike Pompeo was named Trump’s CIA director.

No Democrat has won the seat, in south central Kansas, since 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected president. The nine-term incumbent, Dan Glickman, lost that seat two years later in the Republican Revolution where Republicans won control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in 40 years.

Now Republicans are queasy that the seat could flip again.

The race is the first election in the nation for a Congressional seat since Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the electoral vote. Four other special elections to fill House seats are scheduled to be held in Georgia, Montana, South Carolina and California.

Democrats are “going to try to sneak up and steal an election,” Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said before Estes was nominated.

Vice President Mike Pence has recorded a robocall supporting Estes. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is expected to appear today with Estes at a rally in Wichita. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $92,000 on TV and digital advertising, and Paul Ryan emailed donors for Estes.

The Cook Political Report has changed the race from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.”

“They’re panicking,”  said Thompson’s campaign manager, Colin Curtis.

Thompson is a political newcomer who grew up poor in Oklahoma City and was once homeless. Thompson joined the Army after high school and attended Wichita State University on the GI bill.

“I believe in returning power to the working class,” he said in Pratt, Kan.

Estes has been the Kansas state treasurer since 2011. He previously was the treasurer for Sedgwick County and has a master’s in business administration. He is a long-time associate of Gov. Sam Brownback, one of the most reviled governors in the nation.

Like Trump, Estes wants to weaken the EPA and water down federal regulations that protect consumers. He also wants to kill off the Affordable Care Act.

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Wichita, the largest city in the 4th District, is home to Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States. Brothers Charles and David Koch have spent millions of dollars over the years supporting far-right politicians and causes. They are estimated to be worth $96.6 billion.

Their support for Brownback has helped turn Kansas into a state with low taxes, a paltry growth rate, an expected budget shortfall of about $1 billion through fiscal 2019, and troubled schools.

Thompson is hoping that 4th District voters, leery of Trump and his dismal poll numbers, are ready for a new revolution close to 23 years after the 1994 landslide that brought Republicans to power and paved the way for what they are doing to our country.

April 10, 2017