The GOP held on to a Mississippi congressional seat in a special-election runoff Tuesday, in which Trent Kelly, a Republican district attorney, handily defeated a Democratic political consultant and fellow attorney who was seeking his first public office.
Kelly will serve most of a two-year term started by Republican Rep. Alan Nunnelee, who was first elected in 2010 and won a third term in 2014 as he struggled with health problems. Nunnelee was 56 when he died of brain cancer in February.
"We ran a very simple campaign, and it was about who I am and why I want to be a congressman," Kelly told supporters at his victory party Tuesday night in Tupelo. "God is first in my life."
Kelly, 49, is the district attorney for seven counties, about one-third of northern Mississippi's 1st Congressional District. He was supported by Republicans, including Gov. Phil Bryant and Nunnelee's widow, Tori Nunnelee, and was the favored candidate in a district that has been controlled by Republicans for most of the past 20 years.
If the Democrat, 34-year-old Walter Zinn of Pontotoc, had pulled off an upset, he would have become only the third African-American congressman in Mississippi since Reconstruction.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kelly had 70 percent of the vote, and Zinn had 30 percent.
Now the only vacant seat in the 435-member U.S. House is in Illinois, where Republican Rep. Aaron Schock resigned in March amid questions about his spending. The primary in central Illinois' 18th District is July 7, and the special election is Sept. 10. With Kelly joining the House, Republicans will hold 246 seats, and Democrats will hold 188.
The Associated Press