Rep. Ron Estes got something few first-term lawmakers do: a nice office with a nice view of the Washington Monument.
But Estes, the Kansas Republican sworn into office Tuesday, might not want to get too comfortable in the blue Turkish leather chairs he inherited from his predecessor, Rep. Mike Pompeo.
He won his seat with a relatively weak 7-point victory against Democrat James Thompson in a district that Pompeo and President Donald Trump both won in November by roughly 30 points apiece.
He might draw a Republican primary opponent in 2018. Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle is weighing a bid, and she’s an experienced legislator who could draw a lot of support.
He’s going to be thrust quickly into one of the year’s hottest controversies: whether to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Estes said he was not quite ready to weigh in on the latest Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act. Opposition from conservative lawmakers and some moderates doomed the last attempt, which never got a vote.
“I haven’t seen enough of the details yet,” he said.
And even if he wins re-election next year, he may have to give up the office to a more senior lawmaker, and at this point every other lawmaker is more senior than Estes. Pompeo, a veteran congressman, left to become Central Intelligence Agency director.
For the moment, though, Estes, 60, and his family are getting a chance to bask in the spotlight.
“It’s been a great last 20 hours or so,” Estes said Wednesday in his office, surrounded by photos and models of the airplanes manufactured in Wichita.
On Tuesday evening, Estes was surrounded by his wife, mother and children as they posed for a portrait with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., administering the oath of office.
Ryan laughed about the last time he did that for a Kansan, Rep. Roger Marshall, who was elected last year in the “Big First” district covering western Kansas.
Marshall’s son, Cal, on a dare from his football teammates, performed a popular dance pose called “the dab” and at first confused Ryan, who thought the teen was sneezing.
There was no dabbing at Estes’ ceremonial swearing-in.
Later, on the floor of the House of Representatives, Kansas Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins introduced Estes to his new colleagues. Estes, his children at his side, then introduced his mother and his wife, Susan, seated in the gallery, as lawmakers applauded.
As he stepped into an elevator with one of his daughters, Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly rushed in before the doors closed to give a friendly hello.
On Wednesday, the Kansas Republican, who was elected in an April 11 special election to represent the 4th Congressional District, was settling into Pompeo’s old office in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Estes said he was focused on his work in Congress more than on past or future campaigns. He’s already cast his first few votes, and he’s in the process of getting up to speed three months after the current session began.
“There’s a lot of things we have to catch up on,” Estes said.
He’s still waiting for a proper nameplate for his office door, and for his committee assignments.
He’s interested in the Education and the Workforce Committee because it would put him in a position to help Wichita’s aerospace manufacturers recruit educated and skilled workers.
“That’s a good fit for the district,” he said.
Estes favors overhauling the tax code to allow companies to bring their overseas profits back to the United States under a lower tax rate, around 5 or 10 percent.
“We’ll have a lot more income,” he said, “and it will help with our economic growth.”
Estes’ wife is politically engaged, as well. The couple met as Young Republicans. She once volunteered for the campaign of Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican.
She might even run herself one day.
“I wouldn’t put it past her,” he said.
Estes said he intended to do “a good job while I’m here and serve the district well.”
“We’re in office now,” he said. “We’ll continue to be prepared for next year.”