These special elections will be first test of political climate under Trump

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Republican candidate Bob Gray speaks during the League of Women Voters' candidate forum for Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election to replace Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services, in Marietta, Georgia, U.S. April 3, 2017. Picture taken April 3, 2017.  REUTERS/Bita Honarvar - RTX34SCJ

Republican candidate Bob Gray speaks during the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election in Marietta, Georgia on April 3, 2017. Picture taken April 3, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Bita Honarvar

It may be an off year, but elections are happening: Five members of Congress have left their seats to either join the Trump administration, or in one case, to battle him as attorney general of California. Three of those races are set for this spring, including one today. These races are in deep red districts, and in at least two cases, Democrats are on a hunt to turn the seats blue.

Here’s a look at races to watch.

Kansas: 4th District

It’s Election Day! Tuesday marks the special election to replace former Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is now serving as CIA director. It’s the first Congressional race in the nation since President Donald Trump’s election this past November. The open seat is for Kansas’ 4th congressional district, which includes Wichita, the state’s largest city.

Typically, this is a deep red district; Mr. Trump won it by 27 points in 2016. Republicans have held this Wichita-based seat for more than two decades. But in the final days leading up to the special election, Republicans have shown concern about their hold on the seat, calling in heavy hitters like Vice President Mike Pence and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to make sure Republican state treasurer Ron Estes bests Democrat Jim Thompson, a civil rights attorney and Army veteran who has surged in the polls.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House GOP, has spent nearly $100,000 on television ads backing Estes in the last few days. Cook Political Report rates this race as “Lean Republican.”

Georgia: 6th District

This special election, set for April 18, has garnered national attention. Previously held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, the seat for Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, which covers the suburbs of Atlanta, is solidly Republican. The race to replace Price has become so crowded — there are 18 candidates — that it’s projected to become one of the most expensive special elections in the state’s history.

The wide slate of Republicans in the race seem to be splitting the conservative vote, helping newcomer Democrat Jon Ossoff come out with a slight edge over the rest of the pack. The challenge: Ossoff would need to win more than 50 percent of the vote (which looks very unlikely) to avoid triggering a June runoff election. Cook Political Report rates this race as a “Toss-Up.”

Montana at-large

The May 25th special election will determine who fills the seat left vacant by former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who left the House and rode into his job last month as Interior Secretary. Democrats control the state governorship and one of two U.S. Senate seats, but they haven’t been able to get a member of their party into this House seat in 20 years.

Democrats are hoping their banjo-playing folk singer candidate, Rob Quist, could change that. Republicans are backing Greg Gianforte, who recently lost the 2016 race for Governor to Democrat Steve Bullock. Cook Political Report rates this race as “Likely Republican.”

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