Schmidt in strong position for Senate
Derek Schmidt’s time is at hand.
A consummate campaigner, Schmidt’s style and comfort in public settings would serve him well in the race to fill Pat Roberts’ U.S. Senate seat.
Roberts, age 82, announced a week ago he would not seek re-election to a fifth six-year term.
At age 50, Schmidt has given no indication his position as Kansas attorney general is anything but a stepping stone.
Knowing grassroots appeal is important, Schmidt travels the state for any gathering of consequence, hosts a destination picnic (for GOP faithful) each year and has positioned himself for higher offices still to come.
His ladder to success is long.
Schmidt has won eight state-level races, primary and general by wide margins. In 2010, he defeated Stephen Six, the Democratic incumbent, for the first of three successful attorney general elections. Prior to that, he won three terms in the Kansas Senate, the last two without opposition in the general election.
He was an assistant to U.S. Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel while earning a law degree from Georgetown University. Back in Kansas, he joined former Sen. Tim Emert’s law firm in Independence, Schmidt’s hometown, and served as a special assistant to Gov. Bill Graves prior to winning a Kansas Senate seat.
He also is a graduate of the University of Kansas and studied international politics, earning a master’s degree, at the University of Leicester in England.
WHAT DOES all this tell us?
Schmidt is in the prime of his political life and the timing of Roberts’ retirement could not be better.
In 2020, Schmidt will be in the middle of a four-year attorney general term. Even if he lost he would continue an upward trajectory.
In the GOP, three others with statewide recognition stand out: Former governor by appointment Jeff Colyer; Kris Kobach, outgoing secretary of state who lost by 7 percentage points to Democrat Laura Kelly in the governor’s race, and Mike Pompeo, former congressman from Wichita and now U.S. secretary of state.
That Colyer lost to Kobach is telling. However, he has the financial wherewithal to compete and has demonstrated interest. Kobach, meanwhile, is so far to the right — demonstrated by his loss to a Democrat — that his political stock has dwindled.
Pompeo has more national recognition than state, but would be a worthy foe if he decided his staying power as secretary of state were in jeopardy. Pompeo also has some lofty credentials — West Point, Harvard Law and former director of the CIA. Born and raised in Southern California, Pompeo did not become a Kansan until 1998 when he and three West Point friends acquired an aircraft-parts manufacturing firm in Wichita.
The open seat will draw others, but the field will winnow itself well before the 2020 primary election.
This writer’s considered opinion is Schmidt will file and excite voters of both parties, as well as independents, with his campaign and then be elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2020.
— Bob Johnson