AG Derek Schmidt likes to say he's defending laws passed by the Legislature. What about the Kansas constitution?
Let’s take a moment to consider some recent actions by Kansas Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Derek Schmidt.
He’s asked the state Supreme Court to end a stay on a law that stripped Gov. Laura Kelly’s pandemic emergency powers. A lower court judge had found the law unconstitutional.
He’s asked that same state Supreme Court to reconsider its blockbuster ruling that the right to an abortion exists in the state constitution.
After the Douglas County district attorney said she wouldn’t enforce a new law that could target nonpartisan voting groups, he said his office would prosecute violations in the county.
It looks to us as though Schmidt is more focused on his run for governor than his job as AG.
Let’s take them one at a time. The attempt to restrict emergency powers during the pandemic was ridiculous to start with, a clear partisan attempt to score points as a virus ravaged Kansas. The stay on the law — by a judge whose sole job is to interpret legal matters — was the right move.
And as the delta variant swamps state hospitals, perhaps Schmidt should have had second thoughts about limiting officials’ ability to react to public health emergencies.
Asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its finding about abortion rights? That’s even stranger. Schmidt appears to be trying to remind voters of the court’s decision, rather than serve any larger legal purpose.
And if it helps turn folks out in an attempt to limit women’s rights next summer? Well, opponents to abortion rights might see that as a bonus.
Finally, picking a fight with Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez seems strange from any perspective — except the political one. Like Schmidt, she’s an elected official who was chosen by voters to make legal decisions. Like Schmidt, she’s called upon to make tough calls on behalf of those she represents. If she believes she can’t enforce the law in good faith, perhaps that means it’s worthy of further examination.
We recognize Schmidt’s stance. He has said he’s responsible for defending laws passed by the Legislature. But the state’s constitution matters as well. And judges and elected officials represent critical perspectives and constituencies.
Here’s the thing: In all of these cases, the attorney general is taking high-profile, public stances that could well enhance his standing as he runs for governor against Laura Kelly.
Schmidt’s not a disinterested bystander, applying the law like some distant Socratic figure. He’s a willing and enthusiastic participant in the hurly-burly of Kansas politics.