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Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2005

Senate GOP leader Schmidt not running for governor

September 29, 2005

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— For months, he's been on the short list of potential Republican candidates for governor, but Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt said Wednesday he won't get into the race.

Schmidt cited family concerns. He and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of two daughters, 23-month-old Caroline and 3-month-old Claire.

"I am not willing to make the commitment of time and attention necessary to lead a successful gubernatorial campaign," Schmidt said in his statement. "There are elections every two years, but my children will only be little once."

Later, he said during an interview: "We've spent a lot of time debating this in our family and also just within my own mind, and the bottom line is I'm not willing to run unless I can give it my complete dedication. I'm not interested in running if I'm not running to win."

Schmidt, 37, an Independence lawyer, was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and was re-elected last year. He also is a former assistant attorney general and former aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, and former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker.

Schmidt also said he has no plans to run for any other statewide office next year.

He is the latest prominent Republican to skip the contest for the right to challenge Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Others avoiding the race are U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh and State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins.

Sebelius hasn't announced her plans, but activists in both parties expect her to seek a second term.

Sebelius praised Schmidt, saying his leadership was crucial this year to winning improved benefits for military families and securing additional money for public schools.

So far, the most prominent Republican candidates to announce are House Speaker Doug Mays, of Topeka, and former House Speaker Robin Jennison, of Healy, now a lobbyist.

"I think that Derek just probably weighed the priorities," Mays said. "Derek is very bright, is obviously one of the shining stars of the Legislature, and I look for him to run for higher office someday."

Two others have filed for the office: Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie lawyer who was the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2002, and Richard Rodewald, a retired automotive engineer from Lawrence who has been a perennial candidate for state and federal office.

Joe Aistrup, head of Kansas State University's political science department, said Sebelius appears to be in a strong position in seeking re-election, but her fortunes could change over the next year.

"We're in a Republican state," he said, "so I wouldn't count out the Republican Party just yet."

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