After two men named Ron Estes both filed to run for Congress as Republicans, a Democratic candidate is objecting to Congressman Estes' decision to put "Rep." in front of his name on the ballot.
Laura Lombard, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, sent a letter to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Monday contending that it is against Kansas law to allow candidates to use their title on the ballot. She asked in the letter that the "Rep." be removed from Estes' name on the ballot.
The law in question prohibits prefixes and suffixes on ballot names, but allows them "when necessary to distinguish on candidate from another." Kobach said last week he had given both candidates the opportunity to use a prefix or suffix and Congressman Estes chose the prefix "Rep."
Lombard says in her letter that the unelected Estes already differentiated himself by using his middle initial and filing as "Ron M. Estes." She contends Rep. Estes could use his middle initial "G" to differentiate himself.
"The use of 'Rep' is not necessary to differentiate himself, directly violates this statute, and provides an unfair advantage over his competitors," she writes. "Furthermore, no other currently elected official -- either Republican or Democrat — facing a primary race was provided this same benefit."
Lombard also said in the letter that if Rep. Estes wins the primary, his name will appear as "Rep. Ron Estes" on the general election ballot as well. The Eagle has asked the secretary of state's office whether that is the case.
In a statement, Kobach said "Kansas election law clearly provides that the normal prohibition against using a title or prefix in a ballot name does not apply where it is necessary to help voters distinguish between two candidates with similar names."
A Twitter account for Ron M. Estes' campaign has previously called the use of a title illegal.
Rep. Estes' campaign said that instead of issuing complaints, candidates should focus on condemning attempts to mislead voters.
"This is political dirty tricks and a clear attempt to mislead Kansas voters," Estes spokesman Josh Bell said. "Kansas election law protects voters from attempts like this to mislead them. The law provides a method for voters to distinguish between an imposter candidate and an incumbent with the same name."
Lombard is running against James Thompson in the Democratic congressional primary. Whoever wins will face the Estes who prevails in the Republican primary.
Ron M. Estes has not spoken publicly since a news release announced his campaign last week. An email from his campaign account to The Eagle said he "looks forward to a vigorous campaign and is focused on meeting voters as he gets his campaign up and running."
Rep. Estes has called Ron M. Estes an imposter and labeled his candidacy an effort to deceive voters.