(Updated to include comments from interview with Schmidt; adds comments from LaTurner’s office to media)
Former Naval intelligence officer Patrick Schmidt today is kicking off his campaign for Congress against Republican incumbent Jake LaTurner in Kansas’ 2nd District.
Schmidt, a Democrat, issued a statement making his candidacy official after talking over a possible campaign with various party leaders and political operatives in recent weeks.
The Sunflower State Journal first reported his possible candidacy last week.
“I’m worried about our country and our state,” Schmidt said in a statement emailed out late Monday night for release on Tuesday.
“Instead of investing in our future and rebuilding our economy, we are divided by partisan bickering,” he said.
Schmidt said in an interview late Tuesday afternoon that he lived out of state because he was stationed abroad with the Navy.
He said his ties to the 2nd Congressional District go back generations, noting that his grandfather was mayor of Pittsburg when he returned from World War II.
He said his great grandfather was killed in a mine outside of Frontenac shortly after returning from World War I.
“My family has been mining coal, harvesting fields and teaching school throughout this district for the last six generations,” he said in an interview.
“Those are the people that raised me, whose values have helped shape who I am and are the people who I want to represent in Congress,” he said.
While he grew up in Overland Park and graduated from high school there, Schmidt said he still has family in the district.
He and his wife now live in Topeka and he still has family in the district.
“There is a clear need here for someone who does actually want to serve this district and not vote against them every chance they get,” he said.
Schmidt listed his finance director and press contact as Jon Ediger, a 2019 University of Kansas graduate who briefly worked for former Kansas U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
Ediger later went on to work for congressional candidates in Texas and New York.
In an announcement that divulged few biographical details, Schmidt pointed to his military service aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.
“I saw firsthand the impact the United States makes in the world when we are strong and united,” he said.
“After the pandemic, we need to build a stronger economy if we want all Kansans to be able to succeed,” he said.
Biographical details obtained by the Sunflower State Journal show that he’s now in the U.S. Naval Reserves but worked in Naval Intelligence from about 2016 through 2021.
Before leaving the Navy, Schmidt worked as an intelligence watch officer for the Naval Undersea Research and Threat Analysis Center.
He also worked as a targeting analyst for the Joint Special Operation Task Force Arabian Peninsula where he led a countersmuggling intelligence and cryptologic team supporting U.S. Central Command.
And he served aboard the Reagan aircraft carrier, where he worked as a division officer and a fleet intelligence watch officer.
His work aboard the carrier included directing a multisource intelligence team providing air, surface and subsurface threat warnings for the carrier strike group.
He graduated in 2015 from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in international relations.
The Tufts Athletics Department website shows Schmidt ran cross country when he was in college.
The site lists his hometown as Overland Park and that he graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School.
After college, he worked in the economic and commercial section for the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus.
He later worked as a research assistant for the Iran Security Initiative for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
He also worked as a research analyst for Lally Weymouth, associate editor for The Washington Post and the daughter of the paper’s late publisher Katharine Graham.
Schmidt described himself as a sixth-generation Kansan who came from “a long line of farmers, coal miners, and teachers.
“I’ve seen the daily struggles Kansas families face when an unexpected illness or injury shocks the family budget,” Schmidt said in his statement.
“It’s a financial and emotional earthquake impacting everyone in the family.”
He added, “My Kansas roots and values served me well in the Navy. It was an honor to defend this great nation so that we may continue to be a beacon of freedom for the world.”
The district is generally considered an uphill fight for a Democrat although it stands to change as lawmakers get ready to redraw election boundaries next year to account for shifts in population.
Two well-known and well-financed candidates – former House Minority Leader Paul Davis and Michelle De La Isla – lost races in the 2nd District.
LaTurner defeated De La Isla by about 15 percentage points last year. Davis, who had run statewide for governor, was edged by former Congressman Steve Watkins.
Currently, Republican voters far outnumber Democrats in a district that currently stretches from the northeast corner of Kansas at the Nebraska border to the southeast corner at the Oklahoma border.
There are now about 202,000 registered Republicans in the district compared to about 131,000 Democrats and about 137,000 unaffiliated voters.
LaTurner’s chief of staff, Braden Dreiling, told reporters that voters want someone from within the district to represent them in Washington.
“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 told The Kansas City Star.
“We welcome Mr. Schmidt to the race and we’re happy to recommend a good realtor if that’s helpful.”