Andrew Bahl Topeka Capital-Journal
Published 2:55 p.m. CT July 6, 2021, Updated 8:16 p.m. CT July 6, 2021
A former U.S. Navy intelligence officer announced Tuesday as the first Democrat to mount a challenge to U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner in the Second Congressional District.
Patrick Schmidt, a Topeka resident, pointed to his roots as a sixth-generation Kansan in a news release announcing his candidacy. He continues to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserves and also appears to have worked as a policy analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
In the release, Schmidt specifically pointed to health care, national security and rebuilding the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic as core issues in the campaign.
“I’m worried about our country and our state,” Schmidt said. “Instead of investing in our future and rebuilding our economy, we are divided by partisan bickering. During my service on the USS Ronald Reagan, I saw firsthand the impact the United States makes in the world when we are strong and united. After the pandemic, we need to build a stronger economy if we want all Kansans to be able to succeed.”
In a brief interview, Schmidt added that he felt LaTurner had fallen short in supporting working families throughout the district.
“For the last six generations, my family has been mining coal, harvesting fields and teaching school in this district,” Schmidt said. “Those are the people that raised me, those are the values I represent and those are the people I want to represent in Congress.”
Schmidt will likely have an uphill battle in the race. In 2020, LaTurner defeated Michelle De La Isla, the mayor of Topeka widely considered to be one of the most viable Democratic candidates in the district in recent years, by 15 points.
Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University, said it appeared Schmidt was a “credible candidate” and added his presence would be a boon for Democrats if the stars aligned and they were able to be competitive in the Second Congressional District.
He noted that is a difficult prospect, however.
“It is a hard district,” Beatty said. “Usually just having a strong and credible candidate who is in sync with the district is not enough given party registration numbers.”
Braden Dreiling, a spokesperson for LaTurner’s campaign, took aim at Schmidt, saying he recently moved back to Kansas and that “we’re happy to recommend a good realtor if that’s helpful.” A Linkedin page for Schmidt showed he was stationed in Washington, D.C. at the office of Naval Intelligence until June, something he later confirmed.
“If the last election taught us anything, it’s that the people who live in this district want their representative to be someone who both represents their values and actually lives here,” Dreiling said.
Schmidt called the attack “preposterous” and “perplexing,” arguing he served alongside other Kansas natives in the Navy who were temporarily away from their home state
“The idea of denigrating other Kansans’ service … is pretty offensive to me,” Schmidt said.
LaTurner is in his first year in Washington, D.C., previously serving as state treasurer. He defeated incumbent Steve Watkins in the Republican primary last year after Watkins’ candidacy was marred by voter fraud charge.