Yesterday the Wichita Eagle printed a letter from “Ron Estes” titled “Schodorf better.” As you might imagine, the letter promoted Jean Schodorf‘s candidacy for the Republican party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas.
Ordinarily such a letter would not be controversial, except in this case there is a prominent local political figure also named Ron Estes, and he didn’t write the letter. I’m referring to Ron Estes the Sedgwick County Treasurer. He’s also running for the Republican Party nomination for Kansas State Treasurer.
Compounding the confusion — and it’s really more than confusion at this point — is the fact that the Ron Estes who wrote the letter the Eagle published is almost certainly the same Ron Estes who is married to Ellen Estes, who is Schodorf’s campaign manager. There are no other registered voters in Sedgwick County with a name anything near “Ron Estes” other than these two.
I think that the Eagle should have included a notice that the Ron Estes who is promoting Jean Schodorf isn’t the Ron Estes who is county treasurer. It would have avoided a lot of confusion.
There’s also an issue of public policy related to the printing of this letter. Should the Wichita Eagle, when printing candidate endorsement letters, disclose formal connections between the letter writer and the candidate, such as the writer being the spouse of the campaign manager?
In 2008 I was co-manager of Karl Peterjohn’s campaign for the Sedgwick County Commission. Shortly before the election I submitted a letter rebutting criticism of Peterjohn to the Eagle, and it was printed without noting the connection between he and I. I can’t remember if I disclosed the connection to the Eagle when I submitted the letter. But the Eagle — at least the newsroom — was aware of the connection.
The “stir” referred to in the headline of this article comes from the fact that Ron Estes (the Sedgwick County Treasurer) is a conservative, and Jean Schodorf stands out in the field of fourth district congressional candidates in that she is not conservative, at least in the way the other candidates are.
But that’s not all. In a 2010 issue of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party newsletter, under the heading “Thank you to our 2009 contributors!” are the names “Ron and Ellen Estes.” This is the same Ellen Estes who is managing the campaign of a Republican for the U.S. Congress.
Even stranger, Ron Estes — husband of Ellen — is listed as having contributed $100 to Raj Goyle‘s congressional campaign last August.
Not only is Goyle a Democrat, he’s the likely Democratic Party nominee for the same office Jean Schodorf is campaigning for. In fairness, this contribution is dated just about the time Schodorf announced she was thinking about running for Congress.
Then, to add to the strangeness: Ellen Estes, the campaign manager for a Republican candidate for Congress, was registered to vote as a Democrat as of last August. She’s switched to Republican registration since then.
Now I believe a little party-crossing is good once in a while. Last year I volunteered service to the campaign of James Barfield for Wichita City Council. He’s a Democrat, although he is fiscally conservative, and that’s why I supported and volunteered for him.
But the Ron and Ellen Estes family’s close involvement with the Democratic Party, making contributions to both the party and candidates — Goyle and others — makes one wonder.