Opinion

EXCLUSIVE: Kansas AG Derek Schmidt 'Looking Seriously At' 2022 Gubernatorial Run

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Posted: Mar 01, 2021 12:01 AM
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EXCLUSIVE: Kansas AG Derek Schmidt 'Looking Seriously At' 2022 Gubernatorial Run

Source: Photo Courtesy of Derek Schmidt

The Republican Party already has their sights on the 2022 midterm elections. And if conventional wisdom holds, the party will prevail next November.

One campaign to watch will be the Kansas gubernatorial race. Incumbent Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, is up for re-election—and Republicans are eager to retake the Governor’s Mansion. 

Governor Kelly beat her Republican challenger, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, by a 48% to 43% margin. It’s a loss, no doubt, that still stings today.

A potential Republican challenger to Kelly could be current Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R-KS). He’s served in his role since 2010 and was comfortably re-elected in 2014 and 2018. 

AG Schmidt exclusively spoke to me about a potential 2022 run, challenging Governor Kelly’s emergency powers, and how he’ll fight the Biden administration in court. 

AG Derek Schmidt ‘Looking Seriously At’ 2022 Gubernatorial Run

Attorney General Derek Schmidt has been pretty mum about his political future—until now. He told me he’s “seriously” considering running against Governor Kelly in 2022.

“Well, we're looking seriously at it,” said Schmidt in a phone interview. “And as I've visited with people, I've been really very honored that so many Kansans have encouraged me to run. I'll have more to say about that once I've made a decision.”

Schmidt hinted if he were to run, he could unite the party and avoid another defeat like 2018. 

“I think we have a very good opportunity to return a Republican to the Governor's office in Kansas in 2022 as long as we nominate a strong candidate that all of our Republicans can rally around and support,” he added. “That was the trouble we ran into last time was a divided Republican Party that Democrats were able to walk right through the middle of and we need to not repeat that mistake.”

Schmidt further offered, “I think that the Kelly administration has really just not performed well under pressure— both before and during the pandemic. And I think many Kansans are frustrated with that and ready for a change.”

Democrats Pounce on Schmidt, Fear A Potential Candidacy

By all accounts, Schmidt appears to be the most formidable potential challenger to Governor Kelly. 

Why?

Kansas Democrats have ramped up their attacks on him, tweeting, “Derek Schmidt doesn't care about the damage he does to our health or our economy. He is hellbent on undermining Governor Kelly's ability to respond to COVID-19.” 

“I think Kansas Republicans need to pay close attention to how our Democrat friends are reacting to the current discussions,” Schmidt responded.

“It's pretty clear that Kansas Democrats view me as a serious threat to their ability to reelect the Kelly administration. And they've really ramped up their criticism almost in a strange way...It’s obviously very political.” 

Acting as Check on Governor Kelly’s Emergency Powers Abuses

AG Schmidt’s critics suggest he’s obstructing Governor Kelly’s ability to get a handle on COVID-19. Experts, however, have cautioned against unilateral power held by governors under national emergency declarations. 

The Kansas lawmaker is concerned Governor Kelly abused her emergency powers by exceeding authority granted to her under the Kansas Emergency Management Act (KEMA). 

“It [KEMA] works very well for what I'll call ordinary disasters,” Schmidt explained. “And by that I mean disasters that are recurring, for which everybody is prepared and ready to deploy upon the governor's signal—a tornado that hits a town or a flood or wildfires.” 

“The problem is that law with its extraordinary powers—granted to a governor—was never designed to become a substitute for the ordinary democratic process of making law. And it was never designed for the sort of long-term widespread disaster that COVID has become.” 

That’s why AG Schmidt believes KEMA must be reformed by the state legislature. 

“The process by which we govern ourselves has been turned on its head in Kansas by the Governor's excessive reliance on emergency powers coupled with the real lack of legislative oversight of how those extraordinary powers are used,” he stressed.  “I'm a strong believer that the legislature needs to reform the Emergency Management Act this year. It needs to restore balance— along with checks and balances—on how this Governor, or any governor, can use these really extraordinary powers.”

Fighting Back Biden’s Executive Orders

Until he reveals his 2022 plans, Attorney General Schmidt remains focused on fighting President Biden’s agenda in court. 

He most recently signed onto a letter with other Republican Attorney Generals urging President Biden to reconsider his Keystone XL Pipeline executive order. 

“When the Biden administration adopts initiatives that are not only bad public policy—but are also illegal— I'm certainly ready to stand up and challenge them. And I know many of my Republican Attorney General colleagues are as well,” he promised, citing past legal challenges he made during the Obama-Biden administration.

Schmidt also warned, “I think President Biden is going to overreach in many ways. And that's not speculation. He's said it.” 

Conclusion

Looking ahead, Attorney General Derek Schmidt is optimistic Republicans can retake the Governor’s Mansion next year. 

Short of making an announcement, Schmit offered this parting thought. 

“I think in some ways the Kelly administration was an accident of history. And I think if we give Kansans a good choice as Republicans, they're very likely to take it in 2022.”