Politics & Government

Estes wins GOP nomination for Pompeo seat

Ron Estes is congratulated Thursday night by his wife, Susan, right, and others after being nominated by Kansas Republicans to seek the 4th District seat vacated by Mike Pompeo after Pompeo resigned it to head the CIA. (Feb. 9, 2017)
Ron Estes is congratulated Thursday night by his wife, Susan, right, and others after being nominated by Kansas Republicans to seek the 4th District seat vacated by Mike Pompeo after Pompeo resigned it to head the CIA. (Feb. 9, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

State Treasurer Ron Estes has won the Republican nomination in the race to replace Mike Pompeo in Congress.

He will represent the party in an April 11 special election against Democratic and Libertarian candidates that will be chosen Saturday.

Republican Party leaders selected Estes on their second ballot of the night on Thursday.

Estes won with 66 of 126 votes in a special nominating convention held at Friends University.

He got 58 votes on the first ballot, six short of the number needed for the nomination.

The closest challenge for the nomination came from Donald Trump campaign aide Alan Cobb, who had 28 votes on the first ballot and 43 on the second.

They led former Congressman Todd Tiahrt, former talk-show host Joseph Ashby and lawyer George Bruce.

The special election is being held to fill the seat vacated last month when Pompeo, a Republican, resigned from Congress to accept a post heading the Central Intelligence Agency in President Trump’s administration.

Estes vowed to “shake up Washington, D.C.,” and fight a system that “rewards the insiders and the lobbyists.”

In his speech to delegates, he touted his experience in making Sedgwick County and Kansas state government more responsive and efficient.

“I like to solve problems, not create them,” he said. “Unfortunately, government doesn’t always work that way.”

He also portrayed himself as the most electable candidate, citing the 2010 race in which he beat Dennis McKinney – a potential Democratic candidate for the congressional seat – to win his job as state treasurer.

He said he won in 2010 by 17 points over incumbent McKinney statewide and by 25 points in the 4th District.

Friends University political science professor Russell Fox said he had expected Estes to advance.

“I have always thought that it was Estes’ to lose, and I thought there was a chance he would win it outright on the first ballot,” Fox said. “And he was only six votes short of doing so.”

Hundreds of Republicans packed into the auditorium at Friends University to watch their district committee work.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer warmed up the crowd with a speech warning that Democrats would try to “nationalize” the election, banking on opposition to Trump to help them win.

“They’re going to try to sneak up and steal an election … and we’re not going to allow them to do it,” he said. “By God, we’re going to keep the 4th District Republican.”

Democratic campaign strategist Chris Pumpelly, who attended the GOP convention, said Estes’ nomination “gives us the best chance we’ve had in many years” of winning the 4th District.

He said Democrats will be able tie Estes to unpopular Gov. Sam Brownback and hold Estes accountable for underfunding of schools and persistent budget woes at the state government.

Estes has served as Kansas state treasurer since 2011. Prior to that, he served as Sedgwick County treasurer from 2005 to 2011.

Estes has not been directly involved in state spending decisions. The treasurer is mostly involved in managing state accounts and the state-sponsored college-savings program.

Estes also oversees abandoned property, attempting to link it back to its owners.

Estes is a member of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and the Pooled Money Investment Board.

Democrats and Libertarians will select their candidates in nominating conventions this weekend. The Democrats will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 525 N. Main. The Libertarians will meet at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alford Branch of the Wichita Public Library, 3447 S. Meridian.

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