Democrats flip statehouse seat in deep red Kentucky

Gov. Greg Abbott

Of course, special elections aren't necessarily indicative of midterm success.

Dan Johnson, who had been facing sexual assault allegations, was found dead in mid-December of a probable suicide, a coroner said. Democrat Linda Belcher won a special election in Kentucky's House District 49, beating Republican Rebecca Johnson by 68 percent to 32 percent. Belcher's victory is a the first step toward reclaiming the state House majority for Democrats and undoing this damage.

With the worst Presidential approval rating in modern times, it's yet to be seen if Trump's support of candidates will help or hurt their chances during the mid-term election cycle.

Belcher's victory is nonetheless symbolically important since Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton among the district's voters, 72 percent to 23 percent. In a statement, Johnson said she had heard about people being turned away from the polls, adding that "it's like we are in a third world country". In 2018 alone, Democrats have won Republican-held state legislative districts in Missouri, Wisconsin and Florida. As Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight notes, Democrats have been outperforming what we would expect in a normal year by 12 percentage points on average in recent special elections. She lost her last election to Republican Dan Johnson by less than 200 votes. But in December 2017, during a wave of #MeToo revelations across state capitols, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a lengthy investigation of Johnson's conduct at his church, revealing that he had sexually abused a 17-year-old girl.

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As for Johnson, she blamed her lost on voter fraud, though state officials said they have not received any complaints. Johnson's widow, Rebecca, attempted to fill his seat but was no match for the district's previous seat holder.

However, Kentucky Republicans argued that the special election was an aberration, as only 15 percent of registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday.

At her campaign headquarters in downtown Shepherdsville, Belcher said she won the election "fair and square".

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