On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, voters from the Kansas Fourth District went to the polls in a special election to decide who would fill Mike Pompeo’s Congressional seat, vacated when he left to become President Trump’s Director of the CIA. It was highly anticipated that republican Ron Estes, who was also the state treasurer, would win by a landslide. When U.S. Army Veteran and Civil Right Attorney, #James Thompson beat out a career politician to represent the democratic party, Estes went so far as to make a public statement that “no Kansas democrat could ever win a U.S. Congressional or Senate seat.”
Thompson has never held public office
Not only had forty-six-year-old James Thompson never held public office, he could relate to working Kansans across all economic and social levels and he understood their struggles, having grown up in poverty and even been homeless for a time in his youth. The progressive democrat’s Populus message resonated with the primarily blue-collar, middle-class fourth district population and with millennials who felt betrayed by the national democratic party in 2016. But more than anything else, the democrat has never forgotten where he came from or his humble beginnings. To James Thompson, all Kansans and all Americans are part of the same community.’
While James Thompson’s campaign was funded by individual donations, most of which were under $200 from across Kansas and the entire country, the Ron Estes campaign relied almost exclusively on funding from special interest groups connected to the National and Kansas republican party. In the final week leading up to the election, the candidates were running neck and neck. Blindsided by Mr. Thompson’s appeal, the depth of his support among some republicans, the large number of volunteers from Kansas and other states, his never wavering message posted on multiple progressive websites, and his effective use of social media, republicans rushed in to prop up their candidate in the final week of the campaign. The Tea Party Patriots Citizen’s fund, the RNC’s funding arm, the Conservative Congressional Freedom Fighters, and Kansans For Life poured millions of dollars into negative television ads and other print media against the democratic candidate. One ad went so far as to blatantly accuse Mr. Thompson of supporting abortions for families who didn’t like the gender of their fetus. Not one time during the entire campaign did James Thompson retaliate in kind.
A narrow loss for the newcomer
Texas Tea Party Senator, Ted Cruz, held a rally at the airport in Wichita three days before the election while Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, President Trump, and Vice President Pence recorded robocalls in support of Ron Estes and painted James Thompson as the most liberal democrat in U.S. history. And, although in the end, republican Ron Estes did win the election, it was only by only 6.8 percentage points, one of the smallest margins in Kansas politics, with the democrat garnering more republican votes than expected in the south-central part of the district.
Mr. Thompson summed up the election best in his speech to his campaign volunteers and staff. James Thompson has vowed to run again for the same seat in 2018 when republican Ron Estes’s term ends while warning the DNC and state democratic parties that they need to reach out to rural America and better understand their issues and concerns. #KS 4th district special election #James Thompson Populus message