AG candidate Mattivi convinced Kansans eager to elect seasoned law enforcement officer

Former U.S. attorney seeks GOP nomination to replace AG Schmidt

By: - August 23, 2021 8:52 am

Tony Mattivi, a retired assistant U.S. attorney, is the latest entrant in the quest to find a replacement for Attorney General Derek Schmidt. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Tony Mattivi is persuaded voters want the next Kansas attorney general to be a seasoned law enforcement officer with extensive courtroom experience prosecuting complex cases.

Mattivi, of Topeka, retired last year from the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant U.S attorney and the anti-terrorism and national security coordinator for the District of Kansas.

He worked on war crime cases in Iraq and the prosecution of an al Qaeda operative accused in the attack on the USS Cole. He handled cases of men who wanted to set off a truck bomb at Fort Riley and denotate explosives at a Wichita airport. He also was part of the team of prosecutors who convicted three Kansans who aspired to be domestic terrorists by plotting to kill Somali immigrants in Garden City by blowing up an apartment building.

“That is an area where the attorney general can have a great deal of involvement in keeping Kansans safe. There’s more of that kind of activity than the general public knows about,” Mattivi said on the Kansas Reflector podcast.

The stage is set for Mattivi to compete in the August 2022 primary against former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, of rural Lecompton, and state Sen. Kellie Warren of Leawood. The job is up for grabs because Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, is campaigning for governor.

On the GOP side of the ledger, the three contenders for attorney general mirror each other in terms of offering voters a conservative politician opposed to abortion and a champion of the right to bear arms.

Sen. Kellie Warren R-Leawood, formally launched a campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for attorney general. Her rival in the 2022 election will be Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state. Their quest is to replace Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running for governor. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Leawood Sen. Kellie Warren is a GOP candidate for attorney general in the 2022 primary campaign against former U.S. prosecutor Tony Mattivi and former Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Mattivi, who was a paramedic before law school and now works for a company providing onsite medical services, argued the attorney general’s office should be led by someone experienced enough to serve in a government position that combines the duties of the state’s top attorney and top law enforcement officer.

“I’m the only candidate in the race that has that qualification. I’m the only candidate who has devoted most of his adult life and most of his legal career, not just to public service, but to enforcing laws and enforcing the rule of law,” he said.

He said the next attorney general should have extensive record of courtroom work that demonstrates a capacity to competently, confidently and persuasively argue on behalf of Kansans. The state’s attorney general should have administrative skills to manage a large office involved with law enforcement agencies of all sizes, he said.

He pledged to reduce the state’s violent crime rate and stand up to foreign actors striving to steal intellectual property from Kansas universities and businesses.

“I have spent a career dealing with the issues that the A.G. office deals with every day — prosecuting criminal cases, defending civil cases, making sure crime victims rights are protected, protecting consumers and investigating crimes through working with agencies like the KBI,” Mattivi said. “I don’t believe that you’ll find an attorney general candidate anywhere that’s better qualified for this job.”

Mattivi said he was a lifelong Catholic and pro-life on abortion. That extends to support for the proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution going before voters statewide in August 2022 that would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision affirming a woman’s right to abortion.

“I have a great deal of respect for the justices on the Kansas Supreme Court,” he said. “I disagree with them on this issue. And, I support the ballot amendment.”

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a candidate for attorney general in an August 2022 primary contest with former U.S. prosecutor Tony Mattivi and state Sen. Kellie Warren. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

He said he was a supporter of the death penalty, but under the right circumstances. He said he was the only GOP candidate for attorney general who had personal handled a death penalty case. He also served on the U.S. attorney general’s death penalty case review committee.

The Second Amendment’s provisions on firearms are engrained in many people in Kansas and one key task of the attorney general is to protect those rights, he said.

“The fact of the matter is, the gun in somebody’s glove box isn’t doing anyone else any harm. If you take that gun out of the glove box, and you use it for something, you’re going to be held accountable for the judgment that you exercise, regardless of whether it’s concealed carry permit or constitutional concealed carry.”

Mattivi, who is vaccinated for COVID-19, said he wasn’t fond of government mandates regarding masks, testing or vaccinations. He said government should trust people to use good judgment when making decisions about medical care.

President Joe Biden was guilty of a coronavirus excess by issuing a moratorium on evictions the president probably knew was on weak legal footing, Mattivi said.

“When that impacts Kansas businesses, that’s where, again, in my view, the attorney general has not just the ability to step in, but the obligation to step in,” Mattivi said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.