Wichita residents with the same name will battle for the 4th District nomination.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Twenty-three Republicans and Democrats are candidates for one of Kansas’ four seats in the U.S. House following closure of registration Friday in a campaign cycle remarkable for the large number of Republicans in the 2nd District and high interest among Democrats in the 3rd District.
It’s the highest candidate volume since 2010, when an astonishing 30 candidates competed in primary elections. Otherwise, from 2008 to 2014, 11 congressional candidates, on average, were on primary ballots.
In the kind of twist beloved by comedians, Kansas will host a showdown between Wichita residents Ron Estes and Ron Estes in the 4th District. U.S. Rep. Estes won a special election in 2017 following the resignation of Mike Pompeo, who is serving as secretary of state in the Trump administration. Estes’ primary foe is Ron M. Estes, a first-time candidate irritated with the political status quo.
“I love the people of Kansas, and our current representative is an embarrassment,” said Estes, the challenger. “The incumbent has become the epitome of the D.C. swamp. 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.”
A spokesman for the congressman Estes said newcomer Estes was attempting to “deceive Kansas voters” who participate in the Aug. 7 primary.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past year, and I am excited to build on our success,” Estes said when filing for re-election. “Letting a Democrat take this seat could undo tax cuts, undo growth, undo pay raises for working Kansans and re-impose job killing regulations. We can’t afford to be complacent.”
Democrats James Thompson, of Andover, and Laura Lombard, of Wichita, are campaigning for the right to challenge an Estes.
“I am eager to fight and beat whichever Ron Estes wins the Republican primary,” Thompson said. “I am focused on fighting for the livelihoods of working families and small business owners in the Fourth District.”
Three of the four current members of the Kansas delegation in Congress, Reps. Roger Marshall, Kevin Yoder and Estes, are seeking re-election. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who served the 2nd District for a decade, chose not to run for a sixth term in 2018.
In the vacuum created by Jenkins’ departure, seven Republicans decided to bid on the Republican nomination in the eastern Kansas district that stretches from Oklahoma to Nebraska. The lone Democrat in the contest, former Lawrence Rep. Paul Davis, said the campaign would attract outside interest and dollars.
“Momentum is with us,” Davis said, “but we have a tough fight ahead. The stranglehold that super PACs and lobbyists have on Washington is exactly what we’re fighting to overcome.”
Former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays, a Topeka lobbyist, said he entered the GOP contest after deciding the risk of surrendering the seat to a Democrat was too high. He’s competing along with legislators Steve Fitzgerald, of Leavenworth; Kevin Jones, of Wellsville; Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha; Caryn Tyson, of Parker; Vernon Fields, of Basehor; and Steve Watkins, of Topeka.
“This congressional district is targeted by the Democratic Party in Washington in an effort to tip the scales and hand control of the US House of Representatives to the far left. We cannot let that happen,” Mays said.
In the 3rd District that includes Johnson and Wyandotte counties, Yoder has become a target of national Democrats. He has two GOP primary opponents. The six Democrats in the race: Sharice Davids and Brent Welder, both of Kansas City, Kan.; Jay Sidie, of Mission Woods; Mike McCamon and Sylvia Williams, both of Overland Park; and Tom Niermann, of Prairie Village.
The 1st District, which stretches from Colorado to Emporia, features Marshall, of Great Bend, against primary opponent Nick Reinecker, of Inman, and Democratic candidate Alan LaPolice, of Clyde.
LaPolice, who ran in 2016 as an independent and in 2014 as a Republican, said the United States was at risk from foreign threats and internal division. He said difficult times required someone to “be honorable, be ethical, be bold.”
Tim Carpenter is a reporter for The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal.