Kentucky Democrats on Tuesday won back a rural district in the state House of Representatives that voted heavily for President Trump in 2016.
Linda Belcher (D), who is a former state legislator who lost her election in the Trump landslide in Kentucky, won back the Bullitt County district by a greater than 2-to-1 margin, beating her Republican opponent Rebecca Johnson 68% to 32%.
The Democrat had lost the seat in 2016 by just 150 votes, or under 1%, even as Trump won the district with% compared to Hillary Clinton‘s 23 percent. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the district in 2016 with 64% of the vote.
Tuesday’s special election in the state’s House District 49 was to replace the former state Rep. Dan Johnson (R), who committed suicide in December. Johnson, who was a pastor at a local church, was accused of sexual abuse by a member of his congregation. He denied the accusations, but he killed himself just a few days after local media reported on it.
Johnson’s widow, Rebecca Johnson, said that she would run to replace her predator husband less than 24 hours after he died.
Belcher held the seat from 2008 to 2012 and 2014 to 2016, when she lost it to Dan Johnson.
Her victory on Tuesday is the newest in a series of Democratic victories in special elections all across the country over the past year.
The Kentucky district is the 18th ex-Republican-held district to come into Democratic hands in a special election since Donald Trump won in 2016, which is a growing trend Democrats see as evidence of their party’s momentum going into the midterms. In 2018, Democrats have already won Republican-held state legislative districts in Missouri, Florida, and Wisconsin.
“Flipping a seat that Trump won by such a considerable margin in 2016 shows the sea change happening across America in 2018,” explained Jessica Post, who is the executive director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “Voters are speaking up about what they want to see in their elected leaders and volunteering their time and money to change the election maps.”
“When you have great candidates like Linda Belcher, results like tonight’s win are no surprise,” Rocky Adkins said. He is the Kentucky state House Democratic leader. “Tonight’s victory is also the first step of our journey to take back the Kentucky House of Representatives, and a week from tonight, during the next special election, we intend to take the second step.”