Patrick Schmidt, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd congressional district who campaigned with pundit James Carville, says Republican U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner is out of step with the district in terms of abortion rights and on election fraud in 2020. LaTurner’s campaign says Schmidt is simply getting desperate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Democratic Patrick Schmidt appealed for voters’ attention in the 2nd District congressional race by objecting to U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner’s opposition to abortion, birth control and refusal to support certification of the 2020 election results.
He said LaTurner had difficulty explaining his views on reproductive rights to voters after overwhelming rejection in August of a state constitutional amendment declaring women didn’t have a right to abortion. He said voters ought to question the congressman’s vote against certifying the 2020 election despite lack of evidence a conspiracy led to former President Donald Trump’s defeat.
“Jake showed himself woefully unable to defend his record,” Schmidt said in an interview Monday. “He’s hiding from me.”
Schmidt questioned whether LaTurner, elected two years ago after ousting GOP incumbent Steve Watkins, would appear at the second and final debate to be broadcast by KTWU in Topeka.
Campaign finance reports in July showed LaTurner raised twice as much in contributions compared to Schmidt. Throughout October, the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball each rated the district as “safe” Republican.
Mike Howard, spokesman for LaTurner’s campaign, said the Republican would abide by a commitment to participate in two debates with Schmidt during the general election. The first was in Coffeyville and the second has been scheduled for Thursday evening in Topeka.
He said Schmidt’s campaign was resigned to throwing haymakers as the race wound to a close.
“To no one’s surprise,” Howard said, “Patrick is feeling desperate and would rather spend his time creating false narratives like this one than actually talk about his platform and liberal policy positions.”
Schmidt also alleged LaTurner backed out of a commitment to take part in an election forum on agriculture topics in Allen County.
However, Howard said LaTurner hadn’t promised to personally attend that forum because he had prior commitments in Topeka. The congressman agreed to send a surrogate on his behalf as did Gov. Laura Kelly, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and others invited to Allen County, Howard said.
Two big issues
LaTurner was a vocal supporter of the abortion amendment and predicted Kansans would pass the measure considered a first step toward a statewide ban. The amendment was defeated by 172,000 votes statewide and lost by 18 percentage points in the 2nd District. In July, LaTurner voted against a U.S. House measure affirming a woman’s right to contraception.
LaTurner has said the nation had to “unapologetically stand for the sanctity of all human life” and that anti-abortion activists wouldn’t rest until “innocent human life is protected from the abortion industry. ”
The congressman was among 139 U.S. House members, including two other Kansas Republicans, who refused to vote in January 2021 for certification of federal election results. LaTurner said an attempt to impede the Electoral College counting process was necessary because Kansans deserved to know “all legal, and only legal, votes were counted.”
“We hope our actions begin to restore the confidence of tens of millions of our fellow Americans that feel their sacred right to vote is under attack,” he said.
Threat of violence
LaTurner holds name recognition in the district after representing southeast Kansas in the state Senate from 2013 to 2017 and working as state treasurer from 2017 to 2021. Schmidt, a U.S. Navy veteran, hasn’t run previously for elective office.
The 2nd District boundary was altered by the GOP-led Kansas Legislature to remove Lawrence and add part of Wyandotte County. The objective was to preserve numerical advantages for Republicans in the 1st and 2nd districts while boosting GOP prospects in the 3rd District.
Amid this end-of-campaign tussle between Schmidt and LaTurner, allegations emerged Chase Neill, 31, of Lawrence, made a series of troubling calls in June that included a threat to murder LaTurner. Neill faces a felony indictment in federal court, but proceedings have been delayed pending a mental competency evaluation.
In 2018, Lawrence police characterized Neill as paranoid and indicated he accused an officer of attempting to steal his “unicorn” business proposal.
Howard said LaTurner’s office would cooperate with local and federal law enforcement on the case.
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