Democrat launches biting critique during TV debate for Kansas congressional seat

by Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Democrat Patrick Schmidt harshly criticized Republican U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner during a televised debate Thursday for hiding on Jan. 6, 2021, while Capitol Police “were getting the s*** beat out of them,” then voted against accepting the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Schmidt, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer who is considered an extreme longshot in the 2nd District race, extended his criticism to LaTurner’s anti-abortion views, support for former Gov. Sam Brownback’s failed economic policies and opposition to Medicaid expansion.

LaTurner appeared calm throughout the hour-long attack while repeatedly insisting that Schmidt was distorting his voting record in Congress. LaTurner focused on national GOP talking points about inflation, crime and border control.

KTWU, the PBS affiliate in Topeka, broadcast the debate in partnership with Washburn University’s political science department. Washburn professor Bob Beatty moderated the debate.

Jan. 6 attack

Beatty asked LaTurner if he stands by his decision as a newly elected Congressman in 2021 to vote against accepting the election results.

“Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States,” LaTurner said. “The vote to not certify the election results in some states was about highlighting what some governors and secretaries of state have done, which was unilaterally change election law.”

Schmidt said LaTurner was lying.

“He ran and hid when the Capitol was attacked, when police officers were getting the s*** beat out of them with lead pipes and American flags,” Schmidt said. “And then he gave the criminals exactly what they wanted. For no reason, without any evidence, he voted to overturn election results in three states.”

Schmidt referenced reports that another congressman asked President Donald Trump to issue a pardon to protect the 147 members of the House and Senate who voted to decertify the election results.

“I’ve never needed a pardon in a job I’ve been on in less than a week,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt described the Jan. 6, 2021, attack as a “criminal conspiracy” and said it was important to hold the architects of that conspiracy accountable.

“Instead of denouncing what happened, Jake continued to seek the endorsement of the porn star president that led that attack,” Schmidt said.

LaTurner complained that Schmidt had “tried to connect me to criminal conspiracies and seeking a pardon, which just flat out is not true.”

“What happened on Jan. 6 is horrific,” LaTurner said. “I was there that day with my wife and four kids. What I’ve said from the very beginning, on the day, is that this cannot take place in the United States of America. We need to make sure that everyone that broke the law that day is held accountable.”

Abortion rights

LaTurner sidestepped a question about whether he would support a federal abortion ban.

Instead of answering the question directly, LaTurner said he was focused on making sure taxpayer funding is not used on abortion. Then, he falsely accused Democrats of supporting abortion “up until the moment of birth for any reason.”

Schmidt seized the opportunity to point out LaTurner’s anti-abortion views.

Schmidt repeatedly referenced a $100,000 donation by LaTurner to the failed campaign to pass a constitutional amendment on abortion in Kansas, which voters overwhelmingly rejected Aug. 2. Schmidt said the amendment would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion without exception, meaning a 10-year-old rape victim would be forced to carry her pregnancy to term and give birth without regard for her life or safety.

LaTurner first got involved in politics “not to help people, but to ban abortions,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also referenced LaTurner’s “no” vote in July on federal legislation that declared a fundamental right to contraception. LaTurner said he didn’t like FDA restrictions in the bill, but Schmidt characterized it as a vote to ban birth control.

“I don’t want to be where we were before 1972 where we don’t have fair and legal access to birth control all across this country,” Schmidt said. “I think that’s dangerous. And I think that’s way too extreme for Kansas. And no means no.”


Beatty said the top songs in 1979 were “Hot Stuff,” by Donna Summer, “YMCA” by the Village people “and a song we would all awkwardly slow dance to in junior high called “Reunited,” by Peaches and Herb.”

But 1979 was also known for 11% inflation, Beatty said. This year, inflation has reached a 40-year high of 9%.

The question: What can Congress do about it?

For LaTurner, the problem is tied to the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Democrats in 2021.

The plan extended unemployment benefits and expanded the child tax credit and earned income tax credit. It also provided billions in small business grants, aid to local governments and schools, and funding to support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Democrats argue that soaring corporate profits are the primary culprit.

“What we need to do at the federal level is make certain that we stop the trillions of dollars of spending,” LaTurner said. “We need to cut government waste.”

LaTurner said Schmidt has described the economy as the best it has been since 1984.

“That’s someone that doesn’t really understand the problem,” LaTurner said.

“Kansans are hurting,” LaTurner added. “They’re sitting around the kitchen table, wondering how they’re going to pay their bills. When they go to the grocery store, it costs more. When they go fill up at the pump, it costs more.”

Schmidt said he knows these challenges firsthand.

When LaTurner was in the Legislature, Schmidt said, he “bankrupted Kansas” by “working with his friend Sam Brownback.” After cutting corporate income tax, the state raised the sales tax and cut public school funding. Both of Schmidt’s parents were teachers.

LaTurner also opposed Medicaid expansion, blocking a billion dollars per year in federal aid.

Schmidt said his dad was ravaged by heart disease and COPD, but had to decide between raising his family or taking the expensive medicine he needed to stay alive. He couldn’t raise two sons and afford his own home. He chose not to take some drugs because he couldn’t afford them. And he spent the last weeks of his life on a breathing machine in the hospital worried about how much the treatment would cost.

“So Jake, if you want to talk about the economy, look my mom in the eye and say you’re sorry for what you did to my family,” Schmidt said.


Schmidt said the legalization of marijuana would help the tens of thousands of veterans who served in Iraq an Afghanistan as they deal with pain and trauma.

He said it was a “no brainer” that Congress should legalize the drug.

LaTurner said he preferred to let states decide what to do with the drug, then pivoted to the fentanyl crisis and the need for immigration reform.

“We need to secure the southern border, provide the resources that the Border Patrol needs to do their job, so we can stop this onslaught of human trafficking and drug trafficking and support our law enforcement here in Kansas that are dealing with the issue every single day,” LaTurner said.

LaTurner said immigration reform should include building a wall “in the places that that makes the most sense.”

Schmidt said people turn to fentanyl after they get hooked on opioids. Part of the problem, Schmidt said, is they don’t have access to health care. The counties in Kansas that have the biggest problem with fentanyl are the ones where hospitals were forced to close — “to pay for tax cuts for the Kochs,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also questioned LaTurner’s support for law enforcement.

“Jake defunded the police when he was in the state Senate,” Schmidt said. “They raided their pensions, they cut funding for KBI, for the highway patrolmen. And Jake likes to position himself on police. But he not once has talked to a police officer that saved his life on Jan. 6. Six police officers died. Jake hasn’t said a word and hasn’t talked to them or their families.”

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Garner responds to Kansas Supreme Court opinion on redistricting

Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner responded to a Kansas Supreme Court decision upholding a Kansas Legislature congressional redistricting map that split Wyandotte County.

“In light of the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling, to say we are disappointed is an understatement,” Mayor Garner stated in a news release.

“In my opinion, the challenges it poses for Wyandotte County to have representation that reflects a unified vision for the interest and values of our residents has in effect been compromised.

“We recognize that those living north of 70 with a median income of $35,000 will now compete with those living south of 70 with a median income of $50,000. We also realize that the reapportionment of our county may place our residents in direct competition with other Kansans whose needs greatly differ, that may cause priorities to be subject to enhanced scrutiny.

“We are not just a Unified Government, but a unified community. I pray that this new dynamic does not shatter the spirit of shared values and interests that splitting our county’s desire for equitable representation may bring to a community that is still struggling to receive the attention and economikc investment that can not just improve Wyandotte County’s standing but more importantly p eople’s lives.

“With that being said, Wyandotte County is a resilient community comprised of dedicated people that are determined to enhance and improve the quality of life for all those that call Wyandotte County home. As Mayor, I will continue to fight to be a voice of hope for the improved destiny of our residents, not just today but well into the future.”

Adkins statement:

Amanda Adkins, a Republican candidate for U.S. Representative, 3rd District, issued this statement:

“The map released today is evidence that our democratic process works,” said Adkins. “I welcome the people of Anderson, Franklin, and southern Miami counties to KS-03 and am excited to get to work for the new district, a thriving community of urban, suburban, and rural areas. ”

“KS-03 deserves a Congresswoman who has a plan for our community. There are so many crucial issues that Washington should be working to address right now, from rising prices at the grocery store and the gas pump to the crisis at our southern border,” Adkins stated. “I’m running for Congress to work towards solutions to these issues and to help get our country back on track.”

“My team and I are ready to hit the ground running in the new district and I look forward to representing the people of Anderson, Franklin, Johnson, Miami and Wyandotte counties in Congress.”

ACLU statement

The ACLU in Kansas issued this statement:

“We’re obviously very disappointed for our clients,” said Sharon Brett, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas. “Equal protection under our state’s constitution is supposed to mean something. But as a result of this decision, minority voters and Democratic voters will have their voices diluted for the next ten years. The ACLU of Kansas will never stop fighting for the rights of all Kansans, and this decision won’t change that fact.”

Lawyers in the three plaintiff cases said they will not appeal.

The state’s candidate filing deadline is June 1, Kansas ballots sent to military service members must be mailed by June 17, and the primary election is in early August.

“The Kansas Supreme Court’s reversal of the lower court’s decision is a slap in the face to voters and runs afoul of the democratic values spelled out in Kansas’ own Constitution,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president of Campaign Legal Center. “The Kansas Legislature crafted gerrymandered maps that purposefully divide Kansans based on their race and political views to serve their political interests instead of the community’s needs. Campaign Legal Center will continue fighting for fair maps, because Kansas voters deserve to choose their politicians instead of the other way around.”

Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper said in a previous ruling that the state Constitution protected against political gerrymandering that divided communities of color.

“This court suggests most Kansans would be appalled to know how the contest has been artificially engineered to give one segment of the political apparatus an unfair and unearned advantage,” Klapper wrote.

ACLU of Kansas Executive Director Micah Kubic said the fight will continue.

“This case is only one skirmish in the wholesale assault on democracy in Kansas and around the country,” Kubic said. “Although today’s ruling is disappointing, we will continue to use every ounce of energy we’ve got to defend democracy and protect our shared values. In defending democracy and our values, we don’t give up, we don’t give out, and we don’t give in. As politicians in Kansas continue to try to denigrate our democracy, the ACLU, our supporters and our partners will be there to stand in their way.”

Schmidt statement:

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued this statement:

“Today’s decisions confirm that the legislative and congressional reapportionments of Kansas enacted by the Legislature this year are constitutionally sound. We have successfully defended every Kansan’s right to equal protection of the law in exercising their right to vote, as well as the public’s right to establish new districts through their elected representatives. It is regrettable that Kansas taxpayers have had to bear the unnecessary cost of successfully defending the duly enacted congressional reapportionment against multiple lawsuits backed by out-of-state activists. I am grateful for the expeditious manner in which the court announced the outcome of the cases, and this year’s candidate filings and election preparations can now proceed.”

Statement from Tom Sawyer, House Democratic leader

House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer released this statement:

“I’m happy to see the Court agreed with the Legislature that the Kansas House maps are fair. They were passed with wide bipartisan support and that is reflected in the Court’s opinion.
Unfortunately, the decision regarding Congressional maps opens a pandora’s box for even worse political gerrymandering in the future. Lawrence does not belong in the Big First and Wyandotte should not have been split. Residents of western Kansas, Lawrence, and Wyandotte all agreed on this throughout the redistricting process and made this clear to the Joint Redistricting Committee. The voters in Lawrence and Wyandotte will be silenced by this decision.
Because the Court ruled the Kansas Constitution was not violated, this decision makes clear it’s time for an amendment that clarifies gerrymandering is unconstitutional and prohibited in the state. I call on my colleagues to bring a constitutional amendment to the ballot on this issue.”