Democrats won a Missouri special election on Tuesday of last week for a state house seat in a district that President Donald Trump won by a landslide during the presidential election. This dramatic shift represents a clear and present danger to Republicans' power, and everyone from Paul Ryan on down is scared and aware of what this slide represents.
The 97th District in Jefferson County went for Trump in the presidential election by 28 points. It has historically voted Democratic, but swung hard red during the election. What prompted such a huge swing back into blue territory in the special election? A mix of local and national factors — plus, honestly, just a helluva candidate.
The Republican candidate for the district was David Linton. Linton ran on a strong opposition to abortion rights and hard support for the Second Amendment. Both issues might have been bigger lightning rods under the Obama presidency, when Missouri voters could feel these laws were under attack — but under Trump, both reproductive rights and gun policy seem to be reverting to a more conservative place. The inability to fear-monger on those two issues may have contributed to a slip in Republican voter turnout.
But the 59-year-old Republican candidate also fell because he faced an excellent Democratic candidate. Mike Revis, 27, is not only energetic and invested in local issues but also works as a procurement manager at Anheuser-Busch Inbev. Somehow, I can see how an old guy yelling about guns was felled by a young dude working at the region’s favorite brewery.
Neighboring Kansas currently has a number of teenagers running for office. If Democratic youth is the secret ingredient, this could be a model that more states should borrow from to flip seats and governorships.
“Rep.-elect Mike Revis’s victory tonight will undoubtedly send another shockwave through the GOP as we continue to run the best candidates focused on addressing local issues and improving their neighbors’ quality of life,” said Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which focuses on electing Democrats to statewide office.
All of this is excellent early news for Claire McCaskill, Missouri’s senior U.S. Senator who is up for re-election and considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats running this year.
Republicans are largely downplaying the outcome of the special election. Excuses being floated include low turnout, poor weather, the unpredictability of special elections, and the massive supermajorities the GOP still holds in both the state House and Senate.
But some big GOP names did admit that this was a major issue. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) called the results a “wake-up call” for his party, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Republicans certainly needed to “pay attention” to the results.
This marks the 35th legislative seat nationwide that has flipped since Trump’s inauguration, and the second just this year.