Government & Politics

Trump congratulates Estes, incorrectly claims Democrats spent heavily on Kansas race

Kansas 4th District congressional candidate Ron Estes (right) appeared with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came to Wichita to campaign for Estes the day before Tuesday’s special election. Estes won the race.
Kansas 4th District congressional candidate Ron Estes (right) appeared with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came to Wichita to campaign for Estes the day before Tuesday’s special election. Estes won the race. The Wichita Eagle

President Donald Trump congratulated Kansas’ newest congressman Wednesday morning, but also misstated information about the unusually close special election in the Wichita region.

“Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning after Republican Ron Estes beat Democrat James Thompson by 7 percentage points in a district that Republicans won by more than 30 points in November.

Estes, the Kansas state treasurer, will replace Mike Pompeo, who gave up his seat in the 4th congressional district in January to serve as Trump’s CIA director.

Neither the state, nor national Democratic Party predicted a victory in the race at any point. However, Thompson was quoted in some outlets as saying that his campaign was winning during the final days of the campaign.

Contrary to Trump’s tweet, Democrats did not spend heavily on the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provided phone banking in the campaign’s final 24 hours, but otherwise stayed out of the race in a district that was perceived as a safe seat for Republicans.

The Thompson campaign also had a public disagreement in March with the Kansas Democratic Party after the state party’s executive committee opted against spending a proposed $20,000 on campaign mailers.

The lack of spending by Democrats in the race has been a common complaint from progressives on social media for several weeks.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, on the other hand, spent nearly $100,000 in the campaign’s final days on online and television ads to support Estes and attack Thompson.

Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said Monday that by the time the race was finished the party’s federal account would only have enough money to pay his salary and keep the lights on in their office because of its spending on the race.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district nearly 2-to-1 and have won every election there since 1994.

The late spending on the GOP side — along with personal pleas by the president and other prominent Republicans on Estes’ behalf — caused analysts who had written off the race as an easy GOP win to watch the race more closely.

Estes’ victory was still seen as an underperformance by analysts, and it could foretell trouble for Republicans in districts where the two parties are more evenly matched.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3

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