Lessons: Have the Democrats Learned From Red State Defeats? by Matt Cox

For over twenty years, Republicans have held the House of Representatives seat in Kansas’ Fourth District. On January 23, 2017, Mike Pompeo, abdicated the seat to take the position as director of the CIA, triggering Governor Brownback to set a special election for April 11. This district contains Wichita, known as the home base of the Koch brothers, and is heavily saturated in Koch-funded projects. Pundits and partisans across the country saw this as an easy GOP win.

The Koch money machine tapped Ron Estes, former local and state treasurer and hard right-winger, to run in a district that has gone to a Republican with at least 60% in every election since 2002, (except for 2010, when Pompeo got a meager 58.79%). Pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family, pro-veteran, anti-Obama, and anti-liberal — Estes is a typical Kansas Republican in a typical Kansas district.

No one was paying much attention to Democratic candidate James Thompson, a civil rights attorney who credits Senator Bernie Sanders as his inspiration to run for office. Thompson also held an endorsement from Our Revolution, the PAC inspired by Bernie Sanders and named after the November 2016 book by the senator. He caucused for Sanders in the Kansas primary and follows the Senator’s small-money campaign finance model. The average donation to Thompson undercut the magic $27 of the Sanders campaign by $2. As an Army veteran and Second Amendment supporter, much of Thompson’s resume wouldn’t look out of place coming from a GOP candidate, with the exception that he publicly defends a woman’s right to choose, supports higher minimum wage and healthcare improvement, and believes in immigrants’ rights.

Like his political hero, Thompson believes in a government that works for everyone,
not just the billionaires. Having grown up poor, Thompson dropped out of high school to support his family when they were homeless and living in a van. He later joined the Army and used the GI Bill to get his degree. It would be easy to believe that he was crafted in a laboratory by scientists who were looking to create the perfect model of the American Success Story.

This is an excerpt from Political Autopsy: What Happened In Kansas’s District 4 Special Election?

 Political Autopsy: What Happened In Kansas’s District 4 Special Election?

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