Board member-to-be gains notice as party voice

By The Mercury

Considering that he won’t even be seated on the USD Board of Education for two more weeks, Aaron Estabrook’s public visibility has ratcheted upward lately.

On Tuesday, Estabrook called for the resignation of the president of the Kansas State Rifle Association over publication of his address and comments he viewed as aggressive that were directed toward him and his family on a Facebook page.

Then on Friday, Estabrook’s role as leader of an effort to energize a political party composed of those identifying themselves as moderates got statewide attention.

The second appeared to be a byproduct of the first, a dispute between Estabrook’s nascent movement and KSRA President Patricia Stoneking. In that dispute, Estabrook had expressed irritation that an association member had directed other members to his home address, asserting that action brought other members of hi s family into the political debate. He said at the time he had acted in his role with the Moderate Party movement, whose members had apparently engaged Rifle Association members in debates over public policy.The PAC has little money but is targeting the 2014 elections.

On Friday, the Hutchinson News wrote an article on Estabrook’s effort, and by Saturday morning the notion of a third party had gotten media attention statewide.

Estabrook ran as a Democrat in the 2012 election for 67th District state representative, losing to Republican incumbent Tom Phillips. In April he was one of three winners in a four-way, non-partisan race for the Manhattan-Ogden school board. He is to be formally seated in that role in early July.

Estabrook said he hopes the Moderate Party of Kansas can bring moderate Republicans and Democrats together “to find common ground in the face of extremism.”

Nick Hoheisel, who is pursuing a political science degree at Wichita State University, is the party’s vice president. He has been a registered Republican since 2004. The party’s communications director, Dave Warren of Leawood, worked in Republican Gov. Bill Graves’ administration. And its deputy communications director, Kelly Schodorf of Wichita, is the daughter of former State Sen. Jean Schodorf, a moderate.

Since she was targeted by conservatives in her own party and defeated in the 2012 elections, Sen. Schodorf has dropped her Republican affiliation.

To become a recognized party in Kansas, the Moderate Party would need to collect nearly 17,000 signatures on petitions by June 1, 2014, in order to be involved in the 2014 elections.

Estabrook worked for conservative Republican Tim Huelskamp when he served in the Kansas Legislature before being elected to Congress. In 2006, Estabrook registered as a Democrat, citing the Iraq War as one reason. He served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

“Upon returning to Kansas in 2011, I could not believe the radical nature that conservatism had taken the shape of,” Estabrook wrote in the email to the News. “Our legislators were spending so much time restricting rights that it almost felt like they envied Afghans.”

Kansas currently recognizes only the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. The Reform and the Americans Elect parties were once official parties in Kansas, but they have lost that status.

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