Democrats just won their fourteenth special election since Donald Trump’s election—this time in Iowa. And frankly, they shouldn’t have. Republicans should have flipped House District 82 with their hands tied behind their proverbial backs.
This district not only went heavily for Donald Trump last November (58 percent), but it’s been trending away from Democrats over the past few election cycles. Obama took HD82 with 50 percent in 2012. In Tuesday’s special election, Democrat (and large animal veterinarian) Phil Miller defeated his Republican opponent 54-44 percent.
This hotly contested race took an ugly turn last month when the Republican started airing ads attacking Miller for his vote as school board president to preserve a policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom for the gender with which they identify. Miller voted to uphold the policy (in accordance with both state and federal law). The spot was transphobic and terrible, but that’s not even the worst part.
The Republican began airing the ads just a month after a local transgender teen committed suicide. So it’s nice to see such a disgusting tactic backfire on the GOP. If tonight and last year’s North Carolina gubernatorial contest taught us anything, it’s that anti-transgender potty policing doesn’t win elections.
Not to give short shrift to a Democrat’s 30-point over-performance in a swing state, but Miller’s big win isn’t the only news of the night. Two more special elections were held in Missouri. Both House District 50 and Senate District 28 are solidly Republican seats: HD50 went for Trump 58-37 percent, and SD28 gave Trump 76 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 20.
Neither of these seats was legitimately considered competitive, and Republicans kept them in the red column. Nevertheless, the Democrats in these races performed astoundingly well. In HD50, the Democratic candidate garnered 48 percent, over-performing Clinton’s numbers by 17. In SD28, the 32 percent the Democrat brought in had her outperforming Democratic presidential numbers last fall by 19 percent.
Neither of these contests should have been close (and, to be fair, SD28 wasn’t). But the GOP win percentage in HD50 shifted from 21 percent to a mere four percent in just nine months—not a good look for a party hoping to hold on to swing districts in future elections.
Both the Democratic win in Iowa and the over-performances in Missouri provide additional data points supporting the irrefutable trend of Democratic success in special elections held since Trump’s election. Democrats have not only wrested four seats from Republicans, but they’ve also outperformed Democratic presidential numbers from just last fall in 24 out of 31 contested congressional and state legislative elections. Tuesday’s results bring Democrats’ improved performance average to 13 percent—sure to be an unlucky number for Republicans if they can’t improve their electoral fortunes this cycle.