May 19, 2024
Derek Schmidt, the GOP nominee for governor of Kansas, has responded to Democrats in the state who criticized his ad that took aim at Laura Kelly's decision to close schools.

FIRST ON FOX: Kansas GOP gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt is responding to complaints from Democrats who took aim at his latest ad targeting incumbent Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly over the extended closure of schools and the effect it had on children during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming they amount to an “attack on every Kansas parent.”

The ad, titled “Empower Parents,” features a woman named Natalie Ellis, a mother of five children who said she is voting for Schmidt in the election this November because Kelly’s decision to close schools “did more damage to children than any other governor in Kansas history.”

Following the release of Schmidt’s ad, several prominent Democrats in the state, including Lt. Gov. David Toland and Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, held a press conference to denounce the ad in an effort to defend Kelly’s record on education ahead of the state’s upcoming gubernatorial election.

Responding to Democrats in the state, Schmidt, the state’s current attorney general, insisted that criticism of the ad amounted to “attacks” on Kansas parents and concluded that Kelly’s “loyalists can’t defend her record” on education.

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Current Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, is running for governor of Kansas against incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat.

Current Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, is running for governor of Kansas against incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat. (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Attacks on this ad are an attack on every Kansas parent, like Natalie, who is disappointed, frustrated and angry about Laura Kelly’s lockdowns and mandates,” Schmidt said. “It’s one thing for the governor to tell parents over and over she ‘makes no apologies’ for the damage she’s done to our kids, but it’s shameful her team is stooping to attacking Kansas parents because her loyalists can’t defend her record.”

During the press conference, Toland, who is Kelly’s running mate in the state’s race for governor, questioned Schmidt’s integrity as it relates to education and claimed that it “makes no sense” to have Schmidt in charge of education funding.

“Schmidt’s ad claims that he would fully fund public schools if he were elected. We got some questions about that: Most importantly, why should we believe him now? Second, why didn’t he advocate for that when he was the [state] Senate majority leader? And why would he defend Brownback’s cuts to public schools?” Toland said. “Derek Schmidt wanting to be in charge of education funding is like an arsonist wanting to be in charge of the fire department. It makes no sense. And so while we’ve got a lot of questions for Derek, there is no question about Governor Kelly’s record and her leadership when it comes to education.”

Similarly, Sykes also went to bat for the governor at the conference, telling those in attendance that Kelly is “investing in our kids.”

“I know Governor Kelly supports our schools. She supports our students. She supports our teachers, and she supports our administrators. She is willing to have a conversation with businesses to see what is the workforce that we need, and how do we make sure that we have the workforce for tomorrow. That is investing in our kids. I’m so excited that when she is re-elected in November, we’re going to have a more of a focus on early childhood, because we [have] fully funded our schools now for four years, even though Attorney General Derek Schmidt spent $1.4 million trying to defend underfunded schools,” Sykes said.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks at the dedication and unveiling ceremony of a statue in honor of Amelia Earhart in Statuary Hall, at the Capitol in Washington, July 27, 2022.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks at the dedication and unveiling ceremony of a statue in honor of Amelia Earhart in Statuary Hall, at the Capitol in Washington, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sherri Schwanz, president of the Kansas National Education Association, a teachers union that favored COVID-19 school lockdowns in the state, also said that Schmidt’s attempt to portray himself as a governor who would prioritize education in the state was “laughable” and attempted to draw ties between him and former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

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“Governor Laura Kelly is the education governor,” said Schwanz, according to the Kansas Reflector. “For her opponent to attempt to lay claim to that title is laughable. A more accurate title for Derek Schmidt to claim would be Brownback’s defender in chief.”

Davis Hammet, the founder of Loud Light, a Kansas-based youth voter advocacy group, pointed out Ellis’ family ties to Koch Industries and claimed that if Schmidt is elected, he will provide the company with “tax breaks” and “cut school funding.”

“Her husband is chief counsel for Koch Industries,” Hammet wrote in reference to Ellis in a tweet. “Gov. Brownback defunded schools to pay for massive tax breaks for Koch. It’s a near certainty that if Derek Schmidt wins, Koch will get new tax breaks & the obvious way to pay is to again cut school funding,” Hammet asserted.

Earlier this month, Kelly, during an appearance at the Kansas Chamber’s 2022 candidate conversations event in Olathe, said she makes “absolutely no apologies” for closing schools early on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We in Kansas had to take a look at what do we know, what do we have, and what we need to do to make sure we keep our people safe,” Kelly said, describing the state’s closing process as the virus spread throughout the country.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was the first governor in America to order K-12 schools to close for the remainder of the school year in March 2020 amid the spread of COVID-19.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was the first governor in America to order K-12 schools to close for the remainder of the school year in March 2020 amid the spread of COVID-19. (iStock)

“So, when I look at what we did, I know everybody thinks about the sort of dramatic decision to close our schools and to be the first governor to close them for the entire year,” Kelly added. “I’ll make no apologies for that.”

Kelly, the first governor in America to order K-12 schools to close for the remainder of the school year in March 2020, said the closures were a result of the state not having “knowledge how the virus spreads,” “testing” or “tools” to combat the virus effectively.

According to a April 2022 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the school closures “may ultimately prove to be the most costly policy decision of the pandemic era in both economic and mortality terms.”

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“Closing public schools was entirely under the control of policymakers,” the report stated.

A February 2021 report from the Topeka Capital-Journal stated that between fall 2019 and fall 2020, both public and private schools in Kansas lost an estimated 15,700 students.

On November 8, Kelly will go head-to-head against Schmidt, as well as two other challengers, in an attempt to retain her seat at the helm of Kansas.