There’s a special congressional election in southcentral Kansas, but too few people even know we’re in the midst of an election, the date of the election (Tues., April 11) or the candidates in the race (Ron Estes, James Thompson and Chris Rockhold). Of the few people who are aware of the election and candidates, even fewer know each of the candidates’ party affiliation or what they represent. Surprisingly, that could be good news for the Democrats.
The special election was brought about by the appointment of the District’s three-term congressman Mike Pompeo as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Federal law requires a special election to be held to replace empty congressional seats, so just months after Pompeo was reelected in November 2016, members of the 4th Congressional District find themselves back in the midst of an election campaign, or are they.
That’s just one of the points the Democrats hope to capitalize on. Too few people have a clue about the election and the short campaign period (60 Days) doesn’t allow much time for the back-to-back television ads, mudd slinging and robo calls typically associated with congressional races. With the election less than three weeks away, things will probably ramp up. However, Democrats are hoping the lack of “hype,” will convert into a lack of Republicans at the polls.
On the flip side, Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the anti-Trump Effect. Frustration with a president with the lowest approval rating in history at this point in his presidency, has resulted in a great deal of citizen engagement. The Democrats hope this frustration will show up at the ballot as a vote against Trump and the Republicans, and a vote for their candidate. Democrats are actively promoting this election as a the best way to send a message of disapproval to Trump and to Washington.
Democrats are banking on this anti Trump message to resonate not only with Kansas Democrats, but with Kansas Independents and even some moderate Republicans. Remember, Kansas has a history of electing Democratic governors, thanks in part to Kansas Independents and moderate Republicans who are independent enough to not always vote the party line.
The limited election period will also make it more difficult to draw a clear distinction between the candidates. James Thompson, is capitalizing on his military experience and his support of veterans issues in his television ads. With no mention of his political affiliation, his message has broad appeal. Estes’ ads definitely try to distance him from both Trump and the Republican Party. His ads focus on not letting former politicians lobby the government and revising the tax code to make sure Americans can keep more of their money. Although the flat tax system he proposes is conservative leaning, it’s a concept citizens may be less familiar with and opinionated about.
The bottom line, both candidates are a blur to many potential voters. There isn’t a big name candidate and there isn’t an incumbent, all of which plays into the Democrats hands. So, voters may choose not to vote because either candidate will do or because they don’t feel informed enough to vote. Another option is voters may actually decide based on the ads, campaign literature and/or the little bit of information they’ll read about each candidate.
However for the Democrats to win, Democrats still have to show up at the polls in huge numbers. Because Sedgwick County voters dominate the district, (they’re 70% of the registered voters in the district) as Sedgwick County goes, so goes the election. So despite the Trump effects and the blurry candidates, the Democrats big challenge is getting Sedgwick County Democrats, to show up and vote.
Although voter turnout will probably be low in this election, in a district that typically votes 60 to 70% Republican, Democrats still must show up in big numbers to win. The larger the turnout the better the chances the Democrats can win.