House

Kansas Republican sworn in after special election

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Ron Estes was sworn in as a member of the House on Tuesday, two weeks after overcoming a tougher-than-expected challenge from Democrats in a Kansas district that President Trump won handily in November.

Estes will fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Mike Pompeo (R), who left the House earlier this year to become Trump’s CIA director.

The Kansas state treasurer prevailed over Democrat James Thompson on April 11 by just 7 percentage points in a district Trump won by nearly 30 last year.

{mosads}Estes had been expected to easily win the special election given the reliably Republican nature of the Wichita-area district. But national Republicans rushed to avoid a major upset in the race’s final days amid worries of a Democratic surge in response to Trump.

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $100,000 on ads, while Trump and Vice President Pence both recorded robocalls. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also campaigned for Estes.

Democrats didn’t invest as much in the Kansas special election as they had in a race in Georgia. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted 25,000 live calls in the race’s last two days for Thompson.

Tuesday is the House’s first day back in session after a two-week recess this month.

House Republicans now have 238 members to Democrats’ 193. Four vacancies remain for House seats in Montana, South Carolina, Georgia and California.

The addition of Estes to their ranks means GOP leaders can afford up to 22 defections and still pass legislation without help from Democrats. That’s a number that will be critical for a spending bill expected later this week to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday, given that Democrats will likely be needed to pass it.

The next special election will take place in Montana on May 25 to replace Ryan Zinke, who is now Interior secretary.

The special election for the Georgia House seat vacated by now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has drawn the most national attention. Democrat Jon Ossoff nearly clinched a majority of the vote in last week’s all-party primary in a district that’s been reliably Republican for nearly four decades.

Ossoff will face Republican Karen Handel in a runoff election on June 20.

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