The near-victory Democrats had in Kansas this week wasn’t an anomaly — the resistance is now flipping seats in solid Republican territory.
On Tuesday, Thompson, who was running for the open Congressional seat vacated by former Congressman Mike Pompeo after he took the job as CIA director, managed to pull off a 25-point swing in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District. This is despite zero investment from the Democratic Party’s national infrastructure, or any visits to the district from high-profile Democratic Party figures. The narrow win for Republicans in deep-red Kansas is still a loss, when looking at the bigger picture.
Antipathy toward the Trump administration is likely the factor, as Pompeo easily won re-election in November by a 32-point margin. Despite an emergency intervention from national Republican leaders like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Vice President Mike Pence, Republican Ron Estes narrowly won the district by just seven points. As the Washington Post pointed out, if every contested Congressional election in 2016 had the same result as Kansas, Democrats would hold 299 out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives, or 68 percent control of the body. The one lingering question remaining after the Kansas special election was whether or not Thompson’s near-win was just a fluke.
As the Huffington Post recently reported, there’s definitely a pattern when looking at the shocking results of local elections in rural Illinois. While Illinois’ state legislature is heavily Democratic, and both U.S. Senators are Democrats, much of the rest of the state outside of the Chicago area is solidly Republican. This is why it came as such a shock to the voters of Elgin Township, who elected a Democratic supervisor, and flipped the township’s entire board of trustees to Democratic control.
“It is the first time in history, to our knowledge, for a Democrat to be elected supervisor,” newly elected supervisor Franklin Ramirez told the Elgin Courier-News.
And in Normal Township, Democrats flipped control of the supervisor’s post and three out of four board of trustee positions, giving Democrats a voice on the board for the first time in more than 100 years. Republicans were only able to hold one board of trustees position and the township clerk position. Kankakee, Illinois also saw its Republican mayor unseated to elect Chasity Wells-Armstrong, the city’s first African American woman mayor.
All of these victories were made possible by diligent grassroots organizing. Democratic State Representative Cheri Bustos created the group Build the Bench in order to flip Republican seats in Illinois toward Democratic control. the group hosted “boot camps” for candidates and activists looking to challenge Republicans in seats that typically go red every election.
If the trends in Kansas and rural Illinois play out, the Democratic Party could stand to have a historic midterm election in 2018, if Democrats are smart enough to invest in rural counties.
Tom Cahill is a senior editor for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook by clicking here.