TOPEKA — Military veteran and Wichita businessman Bob Hernandez filed Thursday to be a Democratic candidate for U.S. House in the 4th District represented by Republican Congressman Ron Estes.

Hernandez, who served in the U.S. Army and deployed to Germany, was sent to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 as a logistics specialist with the Kansas Army National Guard. He operates KS Amigos, a janitorial company in Wichita, and previously published a Spanish language magazine serving the Wichita area.

Hernandez said in a campaign announcement he was disturbed Estes described the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol as “peaceful.”

Amid the transfer of power from President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, a mob pushed through security into the Capitol where federal lawmakers were conducting procedural votes to certify the election. A 35-year-old Air Force veteran was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer, while 138 police officers were injured. The U.S. Department of Justice arrested and charged more than 800 people for rioting on Jan. 6.

“I have twice served our nation abroad,” Hernandez said. “To excuse the aggressive and destructive conduct we witnessed on January 6, 2021, is a slap in the face of every serviceman and woman and, frankly, every American.”

Hernandez said he filed in the 4th District because the people of Kansas deserved answers to leadership problems in Washington, D.C.

“Ron Estes can spend the rest of the year trying to explain his lack of patriotism,” Hernandez said, “and we’ll see if the people buy it.” 

Estes’ staff in Wichita and Washington weren’t available to comment on Hernandez’ assertions about rioting at the Capitol.

Hernandez enlisted in the Army in 1972 and was deployed to Germany until 1978. He graduated from Garden City Community College and Wichita State University before working as an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He enlisted in the National Guard after the Andover tornado in 1991. He was in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His campaign was announced ahead of Thursday’s televised congressional hearing on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that jeopardized the tradition of peaceful transfer of presidential power.  A special U.S. House committee has been investigating Trump’s campaign to “Stop the Steal,” which was built on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and an attempt to undermine Biden’s victory over Trump.

Estes, who served as Kansas state treasurer from 2011 to 2017, has represented the 4th District since April 2017. He was initially elected to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, who resigned to work in the Trump administration. Previously, Estes was treasurer of Sedgwick County.

In January 2021, all six members of Kansas’ federal delegation condemned violence in the Capitol. Estes, who advanced claims of fraud in the 2020 election, said the federal government had to “hold accountable those individuals that committed these acts of violence.”