Monday, April 30, 2018

Some Democrats look at recent special elections and see hope in rural districts that are increasingly diverse racially

Based on surprisingly good Democratic performances in recent special elections, some Democrats are urging the party to increase funding and support in traditionally rural Republican strongholds that they say are becoming more racially diverse and more liberal. "Five special elections have been held for seats where Trump won 56 percent to 60 percent of the vote — in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Arizona — and in each of those races the Democrat did much better than expected, winning one and getting very close in two others," Paul Kane reports for The Washington Post.

For example, neophyte Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, who had no major financial support, got 47 percent of the vote against veteran Republican politician Debbie Lesko in a special election in rural and suburban Arizona last week. President Trump won 58 percent of the vote in that district in 2016, and no Democrat had received 40 percent of the vote in that district in this century. The figures were almost the same in last month's special election, in which Democrat Conor Lamb pulled off a narrow win for a House seat in a blue-collar Pennsylvania district.
In an early 2017 review of 127 House races in 2016, Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote that Democrats gained ground in suburban districts, but lost ground in rural districts. "It’s harder in places where it used to be easier, and it’s easier in places where it used to be harder," he told Kane. But anti-Trump backlash is helping Democrats: "Every time somebody's had a ballot in front of them, since Donald Trump was elected, we significantly outperformed," he said.

Republicans have a lot at stake in the upcoming House mid-term elections, with anywhere from 50 to 100 Republican seats up for grabs but only a few Democratic seats in play. Though the GOP has spent heavily in the past to help candidates defend their seats, with so many elections "the national GOP committees and super PACs will not be able to prop up Republican candidates the same way they have in the special elections," Kane writes.

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