Congressional candidate Patrick Schmidt, whose career as an intelligence officer with the Navy ended recently, has tossed his hat in the race to unseat Rep. Jake LaTurner in Congress. Schmidt spoke with Allen County Democrats Monday.
By VICKIE MOSS
January 4, 2022 – 9:36 AM
Patrick Schmidt watched the attack on the U.S. Capitol unfold on Jan. 6. He was stationed in Washington, D.C. as an intelligence officer with the Navy.
“I think if you weren’t there, it is hard to grasp the magnitude of what happened that day,” he told a group of Allen County Democrats and guests at a meet-and-greet event in Iola on Monday evening.
He described the smell of tear gas and bear spray supporters of then-President Donald Trump used to overwhelm police and government officers in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president.
“The only thing Congressional Republicans and the previous administration’s enablers
learned that day is that they didn’t go far enough,” he said.
That event prompted Schmidt, a Kansas native, to run for Congress when his Naval service ended and he moved to Topeka. He’s challenging freshman Rep. Jake LaTurner to represent Kansas’ 2nd District.
He met with about a dozen Democrats on Monday to talk about some of the issues on his platform, which include making the child tax credit permanent and expanding it, funding universal preschool, making health care more affordable, protecting U.S. interests from China and foreign hackers, ensuring free and fair elections, protecting Kansas workers and rebuilding infrastructure.
Schmidt used the event to listen to the concerns of others as much as give his own opinions.
Repeatedly, Schmidt’s answers came back to one thing: Tell the truth.
“My parents raised me to mean what I say,” he said.
Schmidt said he believes Republicans are downplaying what happened at the Capitol in order to protect their own interests.
“They came this close to overthrowing the government and they want to tell you that’s OK. It’s not OK. It’s the biggest threat Kansas and our country are facing. And if we don’t reconcile this, we won’t be able to get anything else done.”
He accused LaTurner and other Republicans of “recycling the same failed economic policies” that prevent action on things Kansans need.
“There are alternatives. Invest in infrastructure. Invest in kids. Expand Medicaid. Invest in communities like Allen County.”
AMONG the topics covered:
Kim Rutter, a rural Wilson County resident, said she was concerned about infrastructure, particularly highways in Southeast Kansas.
“We can’t keep a decent highway anymore. I didn’t realize it until I moved out of state for 30 years and then came back. I see it now,” she said.
Mike Bruner, chairman of the Allen County Democrats, noted that highway repair and construction isn’t just an economic issue, it’s about public safety. He pointed out that previous administrations had raided the state’s transportation fund to pay for other legislative priorities that did not advance the interest and safety of Kansans.
Mark Weaver of Chanute, chairman of the Neosho County Democrats, pointed out the similarities with hospitals. Because Kansas lawmakers refused to expand Medicaid, Kansas lost $6.5 billion in matching federal funds. Several small hospitals have closed, including in Fort Scott and Independence.
He was concerned how that would jeopardize the health and safety of rural residents, who now have even farther to drive for care.
Kate Schroeder of Iola, who works for Thrive Allen County, said the lack of investment in things like infrastructure, health and child care make it difficult for young families to live in a rural community.
“Young people want to live here but they can’t because they can’t raise a family here. They’ll move to Kansas City because they have more resources for families,” she said.
“It’s poisoning the well for the future.”
Schroeder’s comments prompted Schmidt to ask about child care, and attendees were quick to share stories about the challenges of finding affordable child care.
The problem has worsened since the pandemic, Bruner said, which forced smaller providers to quit offering that service. The cost of child care makes it prohibitive because typical wages in Southeast Kansas are low. “Families can’t afford to work,” Schroeder said, when most of their paycheck goes to child care.
Schroeder also noted a lack of available child care for special circumstances, such as for children with disabilities or those in the foster care system, which requires a certain level of training for providers.
“It’s taking workers out of our economy,” she said.
Schmidt shared stories of his own, echoing those.
“That’s something I’ve heard consistently,” he said. “It’s something that’s attempting to be addressed with policies from the White House with President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan.”
When asked how he would respond to concerns about voter fraud and tampering with election machines, something Republicans say delegitimize the election of President Biden, Schmidt responded: “Show me.”
“Make them show us the receipts. They can’t,” he said.
He blamed elected officials who propagate lies and conspiracy theories.
“Tell the truth. Bear witness. These guys want to play footsie with something that’s shaken our very democracy.”
He also expressed concern about Republican policies that would restrict voting rights, particularly for minority voters.
Logan Stenseng, who recently moved to Iola to work for Thrive, asked Schmidt to outline his plan to address climate change.
Schmidt said he believes Kansas can be a leader in the wind industry “for the same reason aviation developed here: wide open spaces and wind.”
He encouraged investment in wind energy education, technology and production.
Rutter, though, said wind farms are a controversial subject in some parts of the state, including Neosho County.
Kristin Wright, an Allen County resident, said, “My opinion is we can give a little space to save the earth.”
“There’s a lot of complexity to this issue,” Schmidt said, noting Kansas also needs to invest in other energy supplies before it can support greater capacity for wind farms.
Schroeder asked how he would navigate issues like vaccine mandates and school closings.
Schmidt said as an intelligence officer, he understands how the information, understanding and dynamics of the pandemic have shifted over time.
“What we know now is that vaccines work. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to get those shots,” he said. “What we do need to do is keep kids in school.”
He said there are ways to protect children and ensure their education is protected, as well, so they don’t lose more learning time.
He also shared his experience in the military and officer candidate school, when vaccination efforts put “10 needs in my arm. It was all a blur. It was just like the movies. It was something we did in order to be a fighting force in every arena across the world.”
He blamed public and elected officials for spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.
“We’ve got to start with people in office that tell the truth.”