April 11 (UPI) -- The Republican Party on Tuesday narrowly survived the United States' first real electoral response to President Donald Trump's election when Ron Estes won a close race for a House seat in traditionally Republican Kansas vacated by the new CIA director.
Estes, 60, defeated civil rights lawyer James Thompson by about 5 percentage points in a district Trump carried with 60 percent of the vote.
Estes will represent the Kansas 4th Congressional District, which encompasses Wichita and surrounding areas. The special election was held to replace former Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is now Trump's director of central intelligence.
Pompeo won the 4th District with 60 percent of the vote in November before his presidential appointment.
Tuesday's vote, however, proved to be much closer for the GOP candidate than in years past -- and is being viewed as a referendum for the Trump administration. It also might offer a glimpse of the 2018 midterm U.S. elections.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Estes won 52 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Thompson. The Republican's margin was just under 6,500 votes. By contrast, Pompeo's narrowest victory, in 2014, was by just under 70,000 votes.
Earlier in the day, some thought the the election could swing in favor of the Democrats.
"I'm absolutely unsure how it's going to go," Jeff Glendening, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that has ties to Wichita-based Koch Industries, told the Kansas City Star. "I think it's way too close to call. It could be one of those late nights."
The election brought out big GOP leaders in support of Estes in the days ahead of the vote.
"Ron Estes is running TODAY for Congress in the Great State of Kansas. A wonderful guy, I need his help on Healthcare & Tax Cuts (Reform)," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stopped to support Estes in Wichita on Monday.
"Today the eyes of the whole country are upon Kansas," Cruz said at the campaign rally. "This election, this special election tomorrow, makes a difference."
Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $100,000 on last-minute support.
Tuesday's vote in Kansas is the first of several special elections this year that will fill congressional seats vacated by Trump appointments.
Montana will stage a vote to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on May 25. Georgia will hold a primary next week to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and an election in June. South Carolina will have a primary in May and an election in June to replace Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney. Alabama will hold votes next year to replace Jeff Sessions, Trump's attorney general.