JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Democrat Travis Childers won a special election to Congress on Tuesday, helping his party to a third victory in recent months for seats long in Republican hands.
The victory puts Childers into the seat vacated by Roger Wicker, a Republican appointed to the U.S. Senate when Trent Lott resigned. The win also pushes the Democrats to a 236-199 majority in Congress– if only for a few months until the general elections in November.
With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Childers had 52 percent to Republican Greg Davis’ 48 percent.
Earlier this year Democrats captured the Illinois district long represented by former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, who resigned from Congress, then earlier this month, claimed a seat in Louisiana that Republican Rep. Richard Baker left.
Elsewhere, Nebraska voters were deciding the Republican and Democratic candidates to run to replace retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.
Childers took on Davis for a Mississippi seat that has been held by the GOP since 1994. Both will run against two other candidates in the Nov. 4 general election for the full term, so the winner will likely gain name recognition and a fundraising edge.
Childers is a socially conservative county official, while Davis is mayor of a fast-growing city across the state line from Memphis.
The race has attracted national attention, with Vice President Dick Cheney campaigning for Davis on Monday, and Davis running ads trying to tie Childers to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Childers has brushed aside those comparisons, countering that with his own support of gun rights and opposition to abortion, his social values match those of most voters in the deeply conservative district.
Childers and Davis advanced to Tuesday’s runoff by grabbing the top two spots in a six-candidate special election April 22.
In Nebraska, Republican Mike Johanns, the former U.S. agriculture secretary and Nebraska governor, easily beat businessman Pat Flynn in the GOP U.S. Senate primary. Johanns, who has raised more than $2 million, takes Hagel’s support into the general election.
Among the four Democrats seeking to advance to November, Tony Raimondo and Scott Kleeb were considered the most formidable contenders.