A potential Democratic candidate who could challenge Republican Jake LaTurner in Kansas’ 2nd District has surfaced.
Patrick Schmidt, a former naval intelligence officer from Overland Park, has been making the rounds with Democrats in recent weeks as he discussed a bid for Congress.
Multiple sources have confirmed meetings or conversations with Schmidt, who is now in the U.S. Naval Reserves but worked in Naval Intelligence from about 2016 through 2021.
Most recently he was introduced as a congressional candidate at a fundraising reception for Gov. Laura Kelly by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a source said.
The reception was held last week at the home of the daughter of former Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates.
Schmidt would not discuss his potential candidacy when reached this week, nor would he discuss any personal biographical details.
It was unclear how far along he was in planning a campaign, although another Democratic source said it appeared he’s hired a campaign compliance officer.
Schmidt’s connection to the 2nd District wasn’t immediately clear, and it was also unknown how redistricting might affect his plans.
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 counter-smuggling intelligence and cryptologic team supporting U.S. Central Command.
And he served aboard the U.S.S. Ronald 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 authored about a half-dozen articles focusing on U.S. policy interests in the Middle East and analyzed Iranian media, government and the private sector for institute policy papers and affidavits.
The district poses an uphill climb for any Democratic candidate.
The Democrats have taken two cracks at the district with well-known and well-financed candidates who came up short.
Former House Minority Leader Paul Davis lost by less than a percentage point to Republican Steve Watkins in 2018.
And Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla lost by about 15 percentage points to LaTurner last year.
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.
The makeup stands to change after state lawmakers redraw election boundaries next year to account for shifts in population.
But as of right now, the district poses a challenge for Democrats, said Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty.
“It’s a very, very difficult district for a Democrat,” Beatty said. “A number of things have to happen for it to be competitive. Those things aren’t happening right now.”
Beatty said an incumbent – think Watkins and his voter fraud charges – needs to make mistakes for the district to be more competitive.
He also said national forces need to come into play, something that might not help next year with a Democrat as president.
Beatty noted that in an off year, the party not in power tends to perform better, something that wouldn’t help a Democrat running for Congress next year.
“The Democrats can’t just have a good candidate who may be really in line with the district on the issues. It’s not enough,” he said.
“It’s Kansas. Democrats have to have a lot of things fall in line for them to be successful,” he said. “Every now and then it happens.”