A string of victories in special elections held over the past year have Democrats feeling optimistic about this November’s mid-term elections across the country. Now they are able to point to a mind-boggling swing in strength from Republican to Democratic in one conservative area of Kentucky.
In a district that Trump won by 49 points, a Democrat has won a Kentucky House of Representatives seat by 36 points. That is an 86-point overall change, going from being overwhelmingly supportive of a Republican president to strongly in favor of a Democratic state legislator in a little over one year.
The seat became vacant in December when Representative Dan Johnson died by suicide after it was alleged that he had sexually assaulted a teenager. His widow, Rebecca Johnson, ran in the special election to replace him. She had denied that the accusations against her husband were true.
She was handily defeated by Democrat Linda Belcher, a former educator who had previously represented the district in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Belcher had narrowly lost to Dan Johnson in 2016.
It is no doubt true that the circumstances of this special election were highly unusual. Belcher, after all, had nearly won her election in that district while Trump romped. Additionally, even reliable conservative voters were probably not very enthusiastic about getting out to vote for the widow of a disgraced man who died under unpleasant circumstances.
Nevertheless, the Democratic Party in Kentucky and across the country have to be pleased with the outcome of this small special election. It was the 37th time since November 2016 that a state legislative seat has flipped from red to blue.
Democrats will likely proceed with cautious optimism. While the November general elections will be very different from these small, isolated special elections, wins like this one give the Democratic Party reason for hope.