The big upset that Democrat James Thompson was looking for in the 4th Congressional District did not happen.
Instead, incumbent Republican Rep. Ron Estes prevailed with the same margins — a 58 to 42 percent lead with 80 percent of the precincts reporting — that many of his predecessors have for a quarter-century.
“If Democrats can take any solace,” said Friends University political science professor Russell Arben Fox, “maybe his loss gives them a clear road map as to what the 4th Congressional District is.”
And he said that’s a district where Democrats have to moderate some of their staunch views, as Democrat Laura Kelly did in her successful gubernatorial bid.
Estes said he was confident he would win because he “knew going in that we were doing the things that voters expected.”
“Our philosophy is that government should be limited,” he said. “We want to make sure people have more freedoms, and that’s kind of the Kansas common-sense approach.”
Estes carried Sedgwick County on Tuesday, though the county — which was considered essential for Thompson’s campaign — went for Thompson in the 2017 special election. As The Associated Press called the race, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” started playing at the Thompson watch party at Old Town’s Distillery 244.
“There’s nothing to be sad about,” Thompson said.
“We’ve done so much to be proud of,” he said, referencing Kelly’s election as well as Democrat Lacey Cruse’s election to the Sedgwick County Commission.
“Do not ever question the importance of what we did in the 4th District to get Laura Kelly into office,” Thompson said.
The mood at Thompson’s party was jovial despite the loss, in part because of the other wins. Thompson remained optimistic about his future prospects as well.
“Don’t get rid of my yard signs — we may need them again.”
Elsewhere in Kansas, GOP newcomer Steve Watkins defeated Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis to represent Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses 25 eastern Kansas counties from the Nebraska state line down to Oklahoma.
In the 3rd District, Sharice Davids, who holds a law degree from Cornell University and is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, became the first openly LGBT person to represent the state of Kansas. She defeated four-term incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder with 53 percent of the vote. It marks the first time a Democrat has won the suburban Kansas City seat in a decade.
In the 1st District representing western Kansas, Republican Roger Marshall is leading challenger Alan LaPolice with a comfortable 68 percent of the vote.
Estes raised $1.67 million in 2018 compared to Thompson’s $1.38 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Estes received support in 2017 from President Donald Trump, who tweeted his support and recorded a robo-call for Estes. Last month, Estes was a featured speaker at a rally by Vice President Mike Pence, who came to Wichita primarily to stump for Kris Kobach and raise money for the Republic Governors Association.
Prior to the election, Fox said the race would come down to one thing.
“Can Estes hold onto Republican voters in the city of Wichita?”
And he did.
Fox said Thompson’s approach was to activate Democratic voters but that maybe his approach should have been to sway more Republicans.
“Maybe there aren’t that many Democratic voters.”
Contributing: The Kansas City Star.