Speed Reads

Special Elections

This tiny special election in Oklahoma could be a deeply troubling sign for Republicans

Democrats and Republicans are closely watching any and all special elections that might prophesize how things could go in 2018. Democrats are hoping that President Trump's historically low job approval rating could carry their party to victory in close counties, while Republicans have celebrated victories in Kansas and sapped the momentum of a Democratic challenger in Georgia by forcing a runoff. Montana's special election is just around the corner, on May 25.

But Republicans still have every reason to be nervous, especially judging by the results of a special election in a deep-red county east of Oklahoma City. On Tuesday, Republican Zack Taylor managed to win 50-48 over his Democratic opponent, Steve Barnes, to seize the vacant 28th State House District seat — but the race should have been a landslide for the GOP. Mitt Romney carried the district 69-31 four years ago, and Trump won the region in November a whopping 73-23.

In other words, while a win is still a win, Taylor's victory marked a 48-point fall for the party in a Republican-friendly district in Oklahoma. The win was confirmed by just 56 votes.

While the left-leaning Daily Kos points out in its analysis of the election that other factors were at play, including "a savage and unresolved budget crisis presided over by the GOP," it also notes that "we've almost never seen anything this dramatic, but the outcome fits into a pattern we've witnessed ever since Trump's win last year. Nationwide, there have now been a dozen races pitting a Republican versus a Democrat in legislative and congressional special elections, and in nine of them, Democratic candidates have performed better than the 2016 presidential results."