The race for the 4th Congressional District seat in south-central Kansas will include a Republican candidate named Ron Estes.
But we won’t know until after the August primary whether that candidate is current Congressman Ron Estes or political newcomer Ron Estes.
Ron M. Estes of Wichita set up the primary race when he filed as a Republican candidate Thursday. His campaign website launched just days before his filing.
The first-time candidate said in a news release that he decided to run because he wasn’t happy with how current Congressman Ron Estes was representing the district.
“I love the people of Kansas, and our current representative is an embarrassment,” Ron M. Estes said in the news release. “I believe Kansas Republicans deserve a Rep. Ron Estes who will show up and represent Fourth District Kansans.
"I feel compelled to run in and win this primary to defend our Kansas values.”
His campaign does not list his occupation or educational background, but in an email Ron M. Estes said he has worked for Boeing for 40 years and is a graduate of Newman University.
Congressman Ron Estes has been in politics since 2004. He was elected Sedgwick County Treasurer in 2004 and 2008, and then moved on to serve as Kansas State Treasurer in 2010.
Rep. Estes calls the challenge political dirty tricks.
“We don’t know for sure who all encouraged him get into the race or who’s helping him do that,” says Congressman Estes.
Congressman Estes says he’ll continue his campaign as usual, but will now have to adjust to questions about a candidate who shares his name.
“In election year, you see all sorts of silly things that are said and attempts are made to try to angle on the election," he says. "But we just keep doing what we’ve been doing and keep pushing forward."
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says this might be the first time Sedgwick County has a race on the ballot with candidates who share the same name.
“ ... I’ve never seen something like that in the 10 years I’ve worked here, and to my knowledge, it has not ever happened before,” Lehman says.
The primary ballot will normally list a candidate’s name, party affiliation and hometown. State law prohibits identifying incumbents.
This year, because both Ron Estes’ have the same hometown, only a middle initial (Ron M. Estes) in one of their names separates the two candidates.
The Secretary of State’s office decided Friday afternoon to take the rare step of adding “representative” in front of Congressman Ron Estes’ name on the ballot to avoid voter confusion.
Lehman says that will also help poll workers who are trained not to provide any specific information about who’s on the ballot.
“We cannot be saying something that would interfere with how someone wants to cast their ballot," she says. "So this is going to be unique, and we will have to figure out what kind of instructions we are going to give our election workers to make sure that if they are asked questions, that the way they answer them does not sway someone’s vote."
The primary is Aug. 7. The winning Estes will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Laura Lombard or James Thompson in the general election.