WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic candidate James Thompson accused national Republicans Thursday of trying to buy a Kansas House seat by making a large advertising buy less than a week before the nation's first congressional election since Donald Trump won the White House.
His comments came following a candidate event at Wichita State University in which Republican Ron Estes failed to show up, the latest in 10 candidate forums and debates Estes has skipped during the campaign. Estes has attended three others.
"I think it shows how desperate they are," Thompson said. "Rather than have a candidate who will actually get out and work and listen to people, they are trying to buy the campaign because that is what they do."
Este's campaign countered that Republican participated with Thompson in a forum earlier Thursday at the Wichita Ministerial League, but deflected a question about whether the last-minute ad buy by the National Republican Congressional Committee indicated growing fears of losing a seat the GOP has held for more than two decades.
His campaign spokesman, Rodger Woods, said in an email that Estes is a "conservative who will fight to create jobs, repeal Obamacare, and bring Kansas values to Washington. That's why Ron will win."
The special election was called after Trump named Rep. Mike Pompeo his head of the CIA.
The Republican campaign committee on Wednesday bought more than $67,000 in television advertising on local stations, according to a disclosure form filed by KSNW-TV. A separate filing Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission also shows the committee is spending $25,000 for digital advertising in the race.
The national Republican group did not directly respond to a question about whether the infusion of money into the Kansas race indicates the party is worried.
"Our goal at the NRCC above all else is to help Republicans win races," NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol said in an email. "If there's a role for us to play we'll certainly be there to help."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declined to say why it is not helping Thompson's campaign in Kansas, instead also sending its own emailed statement.
"President Trump won this traditionally red district by 27 points just a few short months ago, so the fact that the NRCC is panicking now confirms how strong the headwinds are that Republicans face across the country," DCCC Spokesman Tyler Law wrote.
Political committees and groups have heavily bolstered Estes' campaign coffers for a congressional seat the GOP has held since 1994 in south-central Kansas, while Thompson has raised more in grass-roots contributions. His campaign said Thursday it has received more than 7,500 in individual donations.
Estes has raked in about $312,000 between Jan. 1 and March 22 for his run in the heavily Republican 4th District, campaign finance filings show. That reporting period does not include almost $94,000 Este's campaign received has in recent days in large donations of $1,000 or larger.
Thompson raised nearly $254,000 — with more than $248,000 of that money coming from individual contributions during the reporting period ending March 22. Recent campaign filings show he has raised nearly $23,000 since then in large donations of $1,000 or more.
The election is Tuesday.