On his first day as congressman-elect in Kansas’ 4th District, Ron Estes took a call from the president of the United States.
“He said it’s great, congratulations, he wanted to get me up there as soon as possible to help with some of the things he’s trying to do, whether it’s health care reform or tax reform,” Estes said of his talk with President Trump. “And said he’s looking forward to seeing me and Susan up there.
“I said, you know, the race ran well,” Estes said. “It closed a little bit when some of the concerns about the health-care bill not passing came through, and so we got a big push out there.”
Trump’s appointment of Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA created the opportunity for Estes to move up the political ladder from Kansas state treasurer to federal representative.
And Trump helped solidify the victory by campaigning from afar. In the final days, the president recorded telephone robocall messages for Estes and tweeted out a message of support.
“I thanked him for his get-out-the-vote calls,” Estes said. “You know, on a special election, you really have to focus on getting people turned out, make sure that they’re aware that April 11 was the day to vote.”
On Election Day, Estes dominated rural counties in the district, while Democratic opponent James Thompson won narrowly in Wichita and its suburbs.
The tally, with a few provisional votes left to count, was 53 percent Estes, 46 percent Thompson. Libertarian Chris Rockhold took a little more than 1 percent of the vote.
Message of change in D.C.
Estes said he’ll officially be sworn in on April 25, the House’s first voting day after returning from a Passover/Easter recess.
He won his party’s nomination at a special convention on Feb. 9, leaving only about two months to campaign before Tuesday’s election.
Estes said it was difficult to mount an effective campaign in that short time frame but added “I think it’s important for us to have a representative.”
Three other congressional districts that lost their representatives to Trump appointments have yet to choose the successors.
Estes said voters he talked to were largely satisfied with Trump’s leadership.
“The message I kept hearing over and over again was they really wanted to change things in Washington, and they wanted to continue on with what President Trump has started,” he said.
Estes said his No. 1 priority in Washington would be to pass a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget. However, he said, he recognized “it’s going to take time to get that worked in.”
In the meantime, he said, “I do think there are a couple of things teed up to get done this year.
“Obviously, there’s still work on the health care, to repeal and replace Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). I particularly want to see some tax reform,” he said. “We’re putting our country at a disadvantage with the countries that we compete with because of our antiquated tax code. We’ve got to work on that to make us more competitive and help our economy grow and get more jobs.”
He said he also hopes to work with congressional Republicans to cut regulations on business, which he hopes can raise the nation’s economic growth rate from a “toddling along” 2 percent a year to somewhere above 3 percent.
“That’ll generate a lot of revenue, generate a lot of jobs, generate a lot of wealth,” he said.
Estes said he and his wife, Susan, will maintain roughly the same living arrangements they’ve had since he was elected state treasurer in 2010. She’ll stay in Kansas with their daughters so they can continue to attend Andover schools, while he’ll commute on a weekly basis.
But instead of living in Topeka during the week and driving home on weekends, he’ll fly home from Washington, D.C.
Estes spent part of Wednesday working to get his new offices organized and hiring two top campaign aides to work for him.
Josh Bell, the campaign’s finance director, will be chief of staff. He has previously worked for former Reps. Todd Tiahrt and Tim Huelskamp and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Debbie Luper, deputy campaign manager and a former aide to state Sen. Ty Masterson of Andover, will be based in Wichita as Estes’ district director.