LGBTQ candidate wins Democratic primary to take on anti-LGBTQ GOP incumbent

Native American attorney Sharice Davids won her crowded primary to face off against four-term GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder

Published August 8, 2018 6:27PM (EDT)

Sharice Davids (
Sharice Davids (

A Native American, openly LGBTQ woman may soon be elected to Congress for the first time in history. On Tuesday, Sharice Davids, a 37-year-old attorney and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation tribe, won a crowded Democratic primary in Kansas' third congressional district. The Shawnee resident will now face off against four-term Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, an anti-LGBTQ incumbent.

The race has captured the attention of the White House in recent weeks, with President Donald Trump tweeting his support for Yoder and Vice President Mike Pence raising money for Yoder's re-election campaign. Nevertheless, the Johnson County Republican remains vulnerable in a district that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016 — and one that could give the Democrats a chance at capturing a U.S. House majority in the fall.

Davids faced off in a competitive primary Tuesday against five other Democrats, including labor lawyer Brent Welder, who has the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old democratic socialist who stunned the Democratic Party last month after surprising Rep. Joe Crowley with her primary win in New York. Other candidates attempting to unseat the Republican incumbent included former tech executive Mike McCamon; high school history teacher Tom Niermann; Jay Sidie, the 2016 Democratic nominee for the seat; and banker Sylvia Williams.

Davids, who captured 37 percent of the Democratic vote, is hoping to the district's surge of liberal enthusiasm.

"We have so much energy around here," Davids told Salon in a phone interview Monday. "We have this electricity flowing through every event we're having, every time we canvass. It’s pretty phenomenal. Things have really picked up."

Davids served as a White House fellow during the final year of President Obama's administration, where she "saw first-hand the immediate need for competent, thoughtful people to step up, take action, and get involved in government," as she explains in her campaign literature. Before her stint at the White House, Davids earned a law degree from Cornell Law School.

After urging women and people of color to seek public office, Davids decided to take her own advice. Now she's running for Congress.

When asked about how she feels about potentially being the first Native American woman elected to Congress, Davids told Salon, "It's just disbelief, like, really? We have a lot of educated Native women who are active in politics. … It feels like it’s about time."

If she were to win, Davids would be the nation's first female Native American member of Congress — a  first distinction she could possibly share with Debra Haaland, a Native American woman who is running for Congress in New Mexico as a Democrat — as well as Kansas' first openly gay representative.

"This victory shows the fighting spirit Sharice brings to her campaign and the progressive issues she cares about – so Kevin Yoder should be worried," said Mayor Annise Parker —the CEO of Victory fund, a political action committee dedicated to increasing the number of LGBTQ officials in the U.S., and Houston's first gay mayor — in a statement. "While Sharice speaks about inclusion and representing all her constituents, Kevin is chumming it up with Mike Pence, embracing the divisive and unproductive agenda that dominates the White House and so much of Capitol Hill. Sharice will break down barriers with a win in November and add a desperately needed perspective to the halls of Congress. She will become a historic first, but more importantly, she is determined to push forward positive solutions for Kansans and all Americans."

By Shira Tarlo

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