Democrat novice faces two experienced contenders in K02 U.S. House race

Former University of Kansas basektball player turned healthcare community developer Matthew Kleinmann will officially launch his campaign for the 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat Thursday, so far the sole Democrat in the race facing one of at least three Republicans – two with decades of political experience and networking advantage – in a district challenging for Democrats.

Matt Kleinmann

Kleinmann will meet supporters at Bethel Neighborhood Center in Kansas City, Ks., from 6-8 p.m. Thursday for the launch event.

The former KU Jayhawk works as a community developer in Wyandotte County, touting a background in community development, architecture and urban design, and public health to the congressional seat to be vacated by two-term Republican Jake LaTurner. He has neither held nor campaigned for previous political office. He is presently the Director of Community Development for Vibrant Health in Kansas City, Ks.

In a press release on his official kickoff, Kleinmann said he has contributed to and led community health projects to renovate local parks and green spaces, establish a mobile grocery store, improve transportation policy, and expand community centers.

Kleinmann campaign emphasizes his commitment to developing unity and stability across diverse communities, advocating for affordable healthcare for all Kansans and support for working families with better wages and childcare.

Jeff Kahrs

He faces former Kansas Attorney General and 15th District State Senator Derek Schmidt who lost the governor’s race in 2022, along with 16-year veteran staffer for U.S. Congressman Todd Tiahrt and former Trump appointed regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Jeff Kahrs. Shawn Tiffany, former Kansas Livestock Association president and cattle rancher from Council Grove, also announced his candidacy for the post in April.

Kleinmann will face not only more experienced, politically grounded competition in Schmidt and Kahrs and Tiffany, but also the headwinds of a political ticket headed by President Joe Biden, whose plummeting approval ratings are expected to drag on Democrat campaigns across the country with two wars underway, the effective de-gendering of Title IX educational protections for women, questionable support to major U.S. ally Israel and inflation that continues to tap Americans’ household finances. But discussions of those raw political issues were missing from Kleinmann’s announcement press release, which admonished political divisiveness.

“Voters are tired of division and are seeking practical solutions to everyday issues,” says Kleinmann. “We must focus on providing quality healthcare, supporting working families with better wages and more affordable childcare, and ensuring our seniors age with dignity. These are the issues that matter most to Kansans.”

Dane Hicks is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He is the author of novels "The Skinning Tree" and "A Whisper For Help." As publisher of the Anderson County Review in Garnett, KS., he is a recipient of the Kansas Press Association's Boyd Community Service Award as well as more than 60 awards for excellence in news, editorial and photography.