Political consultant James Carville said the Democratic Party could benefit from a youth movement among hard-working candidates such as Patrick Schmidt, a Democrat running for U.S. House in Kansas’ 2nd District who grew up in Johnson County and served in the U.S. Navy. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Political consultant James Carville said the Democratic Party needed more congressional candidates with the tenor of Patrick Schmidt, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer campaigning to oust a Republican incumbent in the 2nd District of Kansas.
Carville, outfitted in a U.S. Marine Corps cap and a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, participated in a fundraiser Monday for Schmidt in Kansas City, Kansas. He said during a Topeka interview he was on the road in support of candidates capable of infusing the party’s political structure with enthusiasm, grit and youth.
“I’m a big believer that the party has to nurture and foster young talent. He’s a prime example of really young talent that we need,” Carville said. “One of my big concerns is the leadership of the party is just old. It’s time to give the Patricks of the world a shot. I say this as someone who’s going to be 78 in October.”
He said Schmidt was among the hardest-working candidates he’d been around, while Schmidt welcomed Carville’s “decades of wisdom of winning hard races” and help convincing people there was a path forward against an incumbent congressman in red-state Kansas. Schmidt said voters should be aware Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly would carry the newly configured congressional district based on her performance in 2018.
Schmidt, of Topeka, is unopposed in the Democratic primary Aug. 2. So is his general election opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner. Both are in their early 30s, but Schmidt has not held public office. LaTurner was elected to the Kansas Senate at age 24 and appointed state treasurer by Gov. Sam Brownback in 2017. He began a campaign for U.S. Senate in 2020, but switched to the U.S. House race at urging of former Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Schmidt said he decided to seek the Democratic nomination because he didn’t believe LaTurner represented interests of people in the eastern Kansas district on tax and health care issues. LaTurner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment.
Since declaring intent to run in 2021, Schmidt said he’d knocked on thousands of doors and spoken with thousands of LaTurner’s constituents.
“We’ve been working in communities where one of the biggest things we’ve heard is, ‘No candidate, no campaign has ever been here. Nobody has talked to me about what I think is important,’ ” Schmidt said.
Schmidt, who grew up in Overland Park and served aboard of U.S. aircraft carrier, said he was committed to improving access to health care, bringing manufacturing back to this country, protecting collective bargaining agreements, embracing family-farmer interests, fighting the opioid crisis and serving veterans.
He also said members of Congress ought to work on strengthening the nation’s child-care system, perhaps through public investment, after so many providers left the field during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carville: ‘I feel better’
Carville has worked on dozens of political campaigns in the United States and abroad, but gained notoriety in President Bill Clinton’s successful campaign for president in 1992. In that race, he focused on themes of “change versus more of the same,” “the economy, stupid” and “don’t forget health care.”
In terms of the 2022 election cycle, Carville said fortunes of Democrats across the country had improved since the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down the national right to abortion and an opinion expanding the right to carry firearms in public.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade emerged as Kansas voters prepared to vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would strike an interpretation of the document by the Kansas Supreme Court that protected a woman’s right to abortion. The firearm decision came as Congress and states were debating gun-control legislation amid a haunting series of mass shootings.
“I can’t tell you I feel good, but I feel better than I did I did six to seven weeks ago. There’s Roe v. Wade, but the gun case is big too,” Carville said. “You’ve got a 50-year right. Does commonsense tell you we should be expanding peoples’ rights or contracting? Does commonsense tell you we need more guns in America? No. No. But that’s what they did.”
Carville said U.S. House hearings on the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol exposed damaging evidence of President Donald Trump’s misguided effort to undermine an election won by President Joe Biden.
“You can feel that other Republicans don’t fear him anymore,” he said. “It’s really diminished Trump’s chances of winning the nomination. We might say, ‘Damn, we should have left him in there because he’s easier to beat that what we got.’ But it’s definitely hurt Trump among Republicans.”
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