(Updates to reflect comments from Estes’ spokesman)
A Democratic candidate seeking the 4th Congressional District seat objects to how Republican incumbent Ron Estes wants to differentiate himself from a challenger with the same name on the ballot.
Laura Lombard registered her protest with the secretary of state’s office on Monday, sending a letter arguing that Estes shouldn’t be allowed to have the abbreviation “Rep.” before his name on the ballot.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach agreed to let the candidates – both named Ron Estes – use a prefix or a suffix to distinguish themselves from each other.
State law generally prohibits candidates from using prefixes or suffixes next to their name unless they’re needed to more clearly identify the candidates from each another.
However, Lombard contends that the nonelected Estes is already differentiating his name with his middle initial of “M.” She said the congressman could identify himself with his middle initial “G” or his full first name on the ballot.
“The use of ‘Rep’ is not necessary to differentiate himself, directly violates the statute, and provides an unfair advantage over his competitors,” she wrote.
“No currently elected official – either Democrat or Republican – facing a primary race was provided the same benefit,” she said.
The problem is compounded because his name will continue to have the prefix “Rep” on the ballot in the general election when he will not be running against someone with the same name.
“Any question of a need to distinguish himself will no longer be relevant,” she wrote. “He will have an unfair advantage over his general election opponent through the utilization of his title.”
Estes spokeman Josh Bell called the move “a clear attempt to mislead Kansas voters.”
“The law provides a method for voters to distinguish between an imposter candidate and an incumbent with the same name,” Bell said.
“Instead of issuing complaints against Rep. Ron Estes, candidates should be focused instead on condemning any attempt to mislead Kansas voters.”
The state Objections Board will have to consider Lombard’s request. No meeting has yet been scheduled.
Lombard has a primary race against Jim Thompson, who ran against Estes last year in a special election and lost in a tough campaign.