Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Susan Estes' job.
State Treasurer Ron Estes says his 4th District congressional opponent, James Thompson, should consider running for governor if he’s going to keep fixating on Gov. Sam Brownback.
On the campaign trail, Estes has had to try to fend off nearly constant attacks from Thompson trying to link him to the governor, whose popularity has sagged amid a state budget crisis, credit downgrades and a tax plan that didn’t live up to the prosperity that was promised.
“I’m running for Congress,” Estes said. “And I don’t know, if James Thompson wants to run for governor, he can probably file for that right now and go do that. And I would encourage him to do that if that’s what he wants to do.”
Estes points out that he’s not actually part of the Brownback administration and is separately elected to run his own office. And although he handles money for the state, he has no vote in setting tax policy or borrowing to plug budget holes.
There’s a few issues, right to life and Second Amendment rights, that I really support the governor on. I’ve also stood up on issues that I disagreed with.
Republican Ron Estes, running for Congress
“There’s a few issues, right to life and Second Amendment rights, that I really support the governor on,” Estes said. “I’ve also stood up on issues that I disagreed with.”
Estes has publicly clashed with the governor over continued underfunding of the state employees’ pension system and a proposal to sweep money from the state’s unclaimed property fund, which the treasurer’s office manages.
But in this campaign, Estes said he would much prefer to talk about federal issues such as regulatory reform, the national debt, health care, immigration and Social Security.
Estes said he thinks Trump, whom he voted to nominate for president as a Republican Convention delegate, is doing well on most of those issues.
“I think President Trump’s done a great job coming in,” Estes said. “The American people voted in November to change what was going on in Washington.
“President Trump’s come in and he’s nominated some great folks, some great people to fill his Cabinet spots, including Mike Pompeo. I think that’s impressive, folks are impressed by that.”
Estes, a Republican, is in a three-way race with Democrat Thompson and Libertarian Chris Rockhold for the congressional seat vacated when Rep. Pompeo resigned to accept President Trump’s nomination as CIA director.
The election will be held April 11. Early voting starts Monday at the the Sedgwick County Election Office, in the historic courthouse at 510 N. Main in downtown Wichita.
Estes has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in business administration, both from Tennessee Technological University.
Prior to becoming state treasurer, he served as Sedgwick County treasurer from 2004 to 2010. Before that, he worked in management and consulting in aerospace, oil and gas, automotive and other industries.
His wife, Susan, was the Wichita-based field director for Americans for Prosperity, a political activist group founded by Koch Industries executives to advocate for low taxes, limited government and relaxed regulation on business. She left that position in November.
Estes said one of the key reasons he’s running for Congress is to roll back Obama administration regulations, which he said are hampering economic growth.
Among those are Environmental Protection Agency rules that Estes thinks have hurt the farming and oil businesses, two key components of the Kansas economy that have seen their fortunes decline in the past few years.
As a state treasurer responsible for investing state funds, Estes said there are unneeded hurdles in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress’ attempt to crack down on risky practices that led to the national recession and financial crisis of 2008.
“He (Trump) jumped on the bandwagon very quickly with his executive orders to roll back some of the Obama rules and regulations that were hurting the economy, which is what he campaigned on,” Estes said.
Views on debt, health care
Estes is a debt hawk. He said he’s highly dismayed that the deficit doubled from $5 trillion to $10 trillion under President George W. Bush, and then doubled again to $20 trillion under President Obama.
“I got to thinking that the best way to solve a problem is to work it at the source,” he said.
On health care, Estes is firmly committed to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
But he said he didn’t like the American Health Care Act, Congress’ first attempt to do that, which crashed Friday with too few supporters to have a floor vote.
“The bill that was brought up doesn’t go far enough in terms of repealing and replacing some of the problems that have come out of the Obamacare law,” Estes said.
He said the pre-ACA insurance system worked well for 85 to 90 percent of Americans.
He supports creating high-risk pools for those who couldn’t buy insurance before the ACA because of pre-existing health conditions. And he wants more government support for charity and “safety net” clinics for those too poor to afford insurance.
Estes also said he supports the president’s call for a wall to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to cross the southern border from Mexico. However, he said he doesn’t think a physical wall from sea to sea is necessary because ground sensors and drones can be used to detect illegal crossings in many areas.
He also said he thinks there needs to be a way for illegal immigrants who are working here to legitimize their status.
“If there are folks that are here illegally and that want to go through a path to citizenship, then we ought to look at ways to make that work,” he said. “But they shouldn’t be able to jump line ahead of the folks that have been following the process just because they entered the country illegally.”