Derek Schmidt announces run for Congress

Former Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced plans to run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner.

By

State News

April 26, 2024 - 2:12 PM

Derek Schmidt addresses the crowd on election night in November 2022 at the GOP watch party in Topeka. Photo by Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Former Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Friday he would run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner.

Schmidt, a Republican from Independence, served 12 years as the state’s attorney general before running for governor in 2022. He lost the statewide race by two percentage points to Democratic incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly.

LaTurner said earlier this month that he won’t seek reelection for the 2nd District set he has held for two terms.

Schmidt said President Joe Biden has “unleashed a dangerous agenda” and that conservatives “need to stand up and fight back.” He said the country was better off under Donald Trump, who endorsed Schmidt in 2022.

“My steady guidepost will be what is best for the people of the 2nd District and for America,” Schmidt said. “These past four years have made clear that America was stronger when President Trump served in the White House, and I look forward to working with him and others next year — yes, to truly make America great again.”

Schmidt was viewed as a moderate Republican when he served in the Kansas Senate from 2001 to 2011. He won the first of three terms as attorney general in 2010 and successfully argued eight cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also challenged the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, in court.

Before the 2020 election, Schmidt sent aides to participate in a “war games” summit planned by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a group associated with the Republican Attorneys General Association. The goal of the summit was to figure out how to respond if President Donald Trump lost reelection. After Biden won, the group helped fuel the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, by placing robocalls that urged people to march on the Capitol. Schmidt, meanwhile, supported a lawsuit initiated in Texas to challenge the election results.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Schmidt embraced far-right talking points about vaccines, transgender kids and critical race theory. But he also faced skepticism within his own party from conservatives who questioned Schmidt’s shifting political views.

On Friday, Schmidt said he feels a “calling to serve” and that “America needs more effective, conservative voices in public service.”

“Kansans know me and my longstanding support for our freedoms that generations of Americans have sacrificed so much to defend, for law and order, for veterans and those currently serving in our armed forces, for farmers and ranchers, for small businesses, for our great Kansas colleges and universities, for life, and for the Second Amendment,” Schmidt said. “They know I am proud to be a Kansan. Always have been. It would be an honor to be your voice in Congress.”

LaTurner’s announcement that he was stepping down referenced his four young children and “dysfunction on Capitol Hill.”

Officially, the only candidate to file in the 2nd District is Democrat Eli Woody, who suspended his campaign to run for a legislative seat instead. Former LaTurner aide Jeff Kahrs and former Kansas Livestock Association president Shawn Tiffany also plan to run for the GOP nomination.

The 2nd District, which was reconfigured as part of the GOP-led gerrymandering in 2022, snakes from the northeast border with Nebraska over to Topeka and down to the southeast border with Oklahoma. 

The district includes the northern part of Kansas City, as well as Leavenworth, Junction City, Emporia, Marion, Burlington, Fort Scott, Pittsburg and Independence.

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