Republicans notch streak of special election victories, ousting Democrats

Republicans picked up a Kentucky state Senate seat earlier this week, marking the latest in a series of under-the-radar wins at the state level for the GOP since the November midterms. The pickups have the party claiming momentum going into 2020, after having lost control of the U.S. House last fall.

Republican Phillip Wheeler defeated Democrat Darrell Pugh in a special election to fill an eastern Kentucky state Senate seat. Wheeler will succeed a Democrat, making it a Republican pickup.

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The Hill reports that the win marks a shift to the right in the historically Democratic area that has seen unions lose power and the coal industry struggle. The newspaper notes this is the fourth special election this year in which a Republican won a seat previously held by a Democratic state legislator. Democrats have also won special elections this year, but none have represented a pickup for the party of a GOP-held seat.

Last month, Republicans won a special election for a Minnesota Senate seat that had long been held by Democrats, giving Republicans a stronger majority in the chamber.

And in Connecticut, Republicans wrested two seats from Democratic control in a special election -- one in the state’s House and one in the Senate. The CT Mirror reported that while Democrats held solid majorities in the chambers, the wins come in traditionally blue-collar districts that have become tougher territory for Democrats to hold.

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The victories are welcome news for Republicans, who saw mixed midterm election results in November.

While Republicans gained seats in the Senate, they were unable to hold off Democrats' takeover of the House, which ushered Nancy Pelosi back into power as speaker and gave her party the platform to launch numerous investigations into the Trump administration.

The Republican National Committee hailed the string of local victories as a sign that momentum is with the GOP ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.

“The RNC is already hard at work electing Republicans, aided by our top-notch data operation working across all 50 states,” spokesman Steve Guest said in a statement. “These wins are a further sign that heading into 2020, the momentum is with President Trump and the GOP.”

Still, Republicans notched a series of congressional special election victories in 2017, only to lose the House the following year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.