We the People: Signs of Spring

Spring, a time for rebirth and renewal, may bring hope of the same for Democrats looking for special election and mid-term election victories.

Republican Ron Estes, the Kansas state treasurer, faced Democrat James Thompson in a tougher-than-usual special election to replace Republican Mike Pompeo, who gave up his seat to head the CIA.

The campaign provoked a flood of late campaign spending by national Republicans while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided against spending significantly to help the underdog Thompson.

That decision was based on the fact that Kansas is a reliable GOP state and this district last went to a Democrat in 1992. Mr. Trump won the district by 27 points in 2016.

James Thompson, a civil rights attorney, crisscrossed the district to meet with voters in diners and coffee shops, and went door to door in order to get support. His campaign energized grass-roots activists and frightened the GOP into action which may yet prove to be the turning point for the course of the nation.

In the first congressional election since President Trump’s inauguration, the Republican in a Republican district won with a narrow 52 percent margin of victory. Mr. Trump was worried enough to make “robo” calls on behalf of Estes.

“Republican Ron Estes needs your vote … and needs it badly … Ron is a conservative leader who’s going to work with me to make America great again. We’re going to do things really great for our country … I need Republicans like Ron Estes to help me get the job done. And I need your vote for Ron Estes on Tuesday,” the president intoned to voters to boost Estes in the race.

Heavyweights Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan stumped for Estes, as well. Why would this be needed against an underfunded underdog?

The efforts and monies led to a slim, single digit victory which Democrats will count as a sign of hope. Mr. Trump has inspired increased fundraising by Democrats. ActBlue, an online fundraising organization for Democratic and progressive groups, collected a record $111 million from more than four million contributors in the first three months of 2017.

In comparison, after President Obama was re-elected in 2012, ActBlue collected under $17 million from fewer than 500,000 donors. The group stated that it took eight years to reach the four million donor mark but following Mr. Trump’s victory, the group received the same amount of donors in the approximately three months. Is it a fluke or is it the administration?

An Estes loss would have been a repudiation of Mr. Trump in the heartland and definitely led to more active participation by Democrats in 2018 House elections. Still, the slim Estes win in the GOP wilderness is a sign of hope that Democrats may gain momentum and recapture relevance through mid-term Congressional election victories.

The president’s party usually loses seats after a successful election: since WWII, the victor’s party loses an average of 29 seats during the first midterm election. Since Democrats must pick up a net of 24 seats to regain a majority in the House, they have a very strong incentive to campaign hard during every election.

Democrats must find winners in traditionally GOP places like Kansas and Georgia in order to succeed. They should follow James Thompson’s example and get out and talk to voters.

Locally, a man of the people has tossed his hat into the ring to become district attorney for Kings County. Councilmember Vincent Gentile announced that he is running for Brooklyn district attorney and will challenge Acting D.A. Eric Gonzalez and several other candidates to replace Ken Thompson who died untimely of cancer in October. Mr. Gentile stated, “I’m the only one in this race that can pick up the mantle from Ken Thompson.”

“Vinnie,” a popular Democrat, served in the Council for 14 years and represented Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights in the state legislature. However, he started his career as prosecutor working for the district attorney in Queens. He is a law enforcer and lawmaker with experience that distinguishes him from the competition.

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