Government & Politics

Virginia’s Youngkin campaigns for Schmidt in ‘neck and neck’ race for Kansas governor

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee for Governor, sat for a Fox News interview after a campaign event Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Hayward’s Pit Bar B Que in Shawnee. The event was hosted by the Kansas Republican Party. Tammy Ljungblad [email protected]

DeSantis’ fiery approach has led to suggestions that he represents a possible successor to former President Donald Trump’s pugnacious brand of politics. Last week, he flew migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a move condemned as a stunt that is now under investigation. Schmidt said Kansas should be “more like what Ron DeSantis has in Florida” when the two campaigned together.

By contrast, Youngkin has focused more closely on everyday issues, tapping into frustrations with inflation, lingering anger over COVID-19 restrictions and a sense parents don’t have enough control in public education. That approach was on display Thursday, with neither Youngkin nor Schmidt dwelling on Trump or immigration in their speeches, though Schmidt did tout various lawsuits he has filed against the Biden administration.

“They need their daily life to be more affordable because Joe Biden’s inflation is crushing families and small businesses. They want to know that they’re going to be able to raise their own children with their own value system and they are going to inherit a state that is better than the one they have today,” Schmidt said, describing what he said Kansans are focused on.

Kelly’s policies, Schmidt said, “have made things worse.”

Sherburne Dunn, a 74-year-old retiree at the Schmidt-Youngkin event, named education as a top priority. Dunn, who has grandchildren in Kansas schools, said remote schooling during the pandemic was “worthless” and said students had fallen behind. Assessment scores have fallen across the country in the wake of the virus.

“What we got now is not working,” Dunn said.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, second from left, took photos with supporters at a campaign event for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee for Governor, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Hayward’s Pit Bar B Que in Shawnee. The event was hosted by the Kansas Republican Party. Tammy Ljungblad [email protected]

Kelly’s campaign, in response to the Youngkin event, emphasized the governor has support from several former Kansas Republican officials, including former Gov. Bill Graves and former U.S. Sen. Sheila Frahm.

“Derek Schmidt is not focused on Kansas, he’s focused on out-of-state, national politics to distract from his record of defending devastating cuts to our schools,” Kelly campaign spokesperson Madison Andrus said in a statement.

“Kansans don’t want Washington or out-of-staters telling us what we need to do. Governor Kelly is focused on the issues that matter most to Kansans, like cutting taxes, fully funding our schools, and growing our economy, not national partisan politics.

The Kansas Democratic Party said the DeSantis and Youngkin events showed that Schmidt lacks support from Kansas voters, “including many Republicans.” State Sen. Dennis Pyle, who is running an independent campaign for governor and calling Kelly and Schmidt both too liberal, is polling at 3%, according to the Emerson poll. Still, in a close race that margin may prove crucial.

Jeff Roe, a Republican consultant who advised Youngkin during his campaign, said it’s important for governors to focus on “common sense” issues like education and other “kitchen top” concerns.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee for Governor, spoke to supporters after he and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned together Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Hayward’s Pit Bar B Que in Shawnee. The event was hosted by the Kansas Republican Party. Tammy Ljungblad [email protected]

“I think the message you heard Glenn just give, that I believe Derek is carrying on the stump, is issues that people deal with every single day,” said Roe, who owns Kansas City-based Axiom Strategies.

Benjamin Melusky, a political science professor at Old Dominion University, said Youngkin mounted a very Virginia-centric campaign, with a “laser focus” on the state. While he accepted Trump’s endorsement, he didn’t make the former president a central focus, Melusky said.

“You hear so much over the last couple years of how fractured is the Republican Party and it’s the MAGA Republicans vs. everybody else,” Melusky said. “There’s a road to be traveled where you try to unite the two.”

This story was originally published September 22, 2022 7:30 PM.

Jonathan Shorman is The Kansas City Star’s lead political reporter, covering Kansas and Missouri politics and government. He previously covered the Kansas Statehouse for The Star and Wichita Eagle. He holds a journalism degree from The University of Kansas.
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