Jun 24, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Inside the GOP's special election sweep

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

There's been a rush to view 2017's House special elections as a barometer for the health of the Trump presidency, leading to an extreme national focus on the four contested races around the country — one of which became the most expensive House race in history. (A fifth special election in California's heavily liberal 34th congressional district in Los Angeles was fought between two Democrats.) Republicans went four for four in these traditionally GOP districts, but at much closer margins than 2016's congressional races, allowing both parties to spin the results as a success.

Kansas, 4th congressional district
  • Date: April 11, 2017
  • Incumbent: Mike Pompeo (R)
  • Reason for special election: Pompeo resigned to become CIA Director.
  • Winner: Ron Estes (R)
  • National spending: Per OpenSecrets, Estes received $130,000 from the NRCC while his Democratic challenger James Thompson received just $3,000 from the Democratic Party, having had a $20,000 request turned down by the Dems' national arm that led his campaign manager to complain that the party was "sitting on the sidelines."
  • Trump's margin of victory/GOP margin of victory in special election: 27/7
  • GOP margin of victory in 2016/GOP margin of victory in special election: 31/7
Montana (at-large)
  • Date: May 25, 2017
  • Incumbent: Ryan Zinke (R)
  • Reason for special election: Zinke resigned to become Secretary of the Interior.
  • Winner: Greg Gianforte (R)
  • National spending: Per OpenSecrets, the race was the most expensive in Montana history and saw outside Republican groups, including the NRCC and RNC, spend $5.6 million on Gianforte while his Democratic challenger Rob Quist received a little less than $1 million from national Democrat-affiliated groups.
  • Trump's margin of victory/GOP margin of victory in special election: 21/6
  • GOP margin of victory in 2016/GOP margin of victory in special election: 16/6
Georgia, 6th congressional district
  • Date: June 6, 2017
  • Incumbent: Tom Price (R)
  • Reason for special election: Price resigned to become Secretary for Health and Human Services.
  • Winner: Karen Handel (R)
  • National spending: The race was the most expensive House race in history with $56.7 million spent. Per OpenSecrets, there was a huge amount of outside national spending with $18.2 million poured into Handel's campaign while her Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff received just under $8m from outside groups.
  • Trump's margin of victory/GOP margin of victory in special election: 1/4
  • GOP margin of victory in 2016/GOP margin of victory in special election: 23/4
South Carolina, 5th congressional district
  • Date: June 6, 2017
  • Incumbent: Mick Mulvaney (R)
  • Reason for special election: Mulvaney resigned to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Winner: Ralph Norman (R)
  • National spending: Per OpenSecrets, the vast majority of the outside spending came during the Republican primary process with just over $2 million spent — only $85,000 was spent on the general election between both parties as the race was considered to be an easy Republican win.
  • Trump's margin of victory/GOP margin of victory in special election: 18/3
  • GOP margin of victory in 2016/GOP margin of victory in special election: 21/3
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