In the battle of Estes vs. Estes, Congressman Ron Estes will rely on his rep to help put him over the top.
Another man with the name Ron Estes is challenging U.S. Rep. Ron Estes in the Republican primary in Kansas' 4th District.
After the non-elected Ron M. Estes, who lives in Wichita, filed to run against Rep. Estes in the Republican primary, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Friday that both men will be allowed to use a prefix or suffix next to their name. Kobach’s office later tweeted that the congressman would appear on the ballot as “Rep. Ron Estes.”
A day after the unelected Estes filed to run, relatively little had emerged about him. A news release announcing his candidacy said he lives in Wichita with his wife, Ellen, and is a first-time candidate. Sedgwick County real estate records show that a Ron and Ellen Estes own the address he listed on his campaign paperwork.
But other hallmarks of a typical campaign were missing. The news release contained no contact information other than a campaign email address. A message sent to the address bounced back.
A search of Federal Election Commission records returned only records for Rep. Ron Estes. And calls to a phone number listed online for Ron M. Estes were not returned.
Ron M. Estes’ news release – and accompanying campaign website – took aim squarely at Rep. Estes, saying he was a “perfect representative of ‘The Swamp’” in Washington.
Rep. Estes’ campaign is calling the other Estes’ candidacy an attempt to deceive voters. Campaign finance records show the unelected Estes previously donated to Democrat Paul Davis in 2013.
“This appears to be a coordinated attempt to mislead voters and undermine our electoral process. However, Rep. Ron Estes remains focused on lowering taxes, growing the economy and fighting for general aviation without being distracted by political games,” said Josh Bell, a spokesman for Rep. Estes.
On Friday, Rep. Estes' campaign sent out a fundraising email attacking the other Estes, saying the "M" in his middle name stood for misleading.
A Twitter account for Ron M. Estes soon fired back: "This is laughable. The incumbent Ron Estes is terrified of having to face the voters after a year of hiding from his terrible record."
When the two Estes — or is it Estii? — filed to run, the twin names triggered an obscure provision of Kansas law. Candidates are normally prohibited from using a prefix or suffix, except “when necessary to distinguish one candidate from another.”
Kobach said he believes it is the first time the exception has been used since the law went into effect in 1973.
“We will offer both of them the opportunity” to use a title, Kobach said.
As an example, Kobach said, the unelected Estes could choose to list a degree such as “B.A.” or “M.A.”
The situation is a headache for Rep. Estes, said Russell Arben Fox, a political scientist at Friends University.
Now that there is a primary on the Republican side, Rep. Estes will have to run at least a minimal primary campaign, Fox said. He predicted Rep. Estes’ campaign will wait and see what the other Estes does in terms of campaigning.
If Ron M. Estes is not going to seriously challenge Rep. Estes, “then all they need to do is they need to identify who are the likely Republican primary voters … and they need to communicate with them — email blasts, fliers, street signs, whatever — emphasizing the differences in the name,” Fox said.
But if Ron M. Estes actually campaigns, then things become more complicated, he said.
“If you have the same name as the other person,” Fox said, “then that messes with your ability to effectively connect with the voters you want to connect with.”