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LGBT Native American Democrat wins Kansas House race

November 7, 2018
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Democratic House candidate Sharice Davids speaks to supporters at a victory party in Olathe, Kan., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Davids defeated Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder to win the Kansas' 3rd Congressional District seat. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Sharice Davids unseated Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in Tuesday’s election to become the nation’s first LGBT and Native American woman in Congress.

Four-term incumbent Yoder was vulnerable in the Kansas City-area 3rd District because of tepid support for President Donald Trump, who narrowly lost it in 2016. The district includes a mix of fast-growing bedroom communities, established suburbs and poorer city neighborhoods.

Trump had endorsed Yoder, the chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee on immigration and homeland security issues.

Davids excited Democratic activists and donors nationwide with her unprecedented profile. A member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation, she was a White House fellow during former President Barack Obama’s administration and received a law degree from Cornell University. She’s also fought mixed martial arts bouts.

Davids told jubilant supporters that she was honored to be chosen to represent people who have sometimes not had their voices heard by the federal government.

“From the beginning, this campaign has been built on bringing new leaders to the table, and new voices to the table. And I am so honored to stand here today knowing I will fill that role for our community in January,” Davids said.

She said her life story of being raised by a single mother, being a first-generation college student and working while she was in school is not that unusual.

“What is uncommon, until now, is to have those voices and those stories and those experiences truly reflected in our federal government, in Congress and the Senate,” she said.

Her campaign upended conventional wisdom that Democrats had the best shot at winning the GOP-leaning district with a centrist candidate such as Dennis Moore, the Democrat who held the seat for 12 years before Yoder won it easily in the anti-Obama wave of 2010.

“Remember serving in Congress the seat doesn’t belong to one person, it belongs to the people of Kansas ... and the people have chosen and I want to congratulate my opponent Ms. Davids,” Yoder said.

Yoder did much of what would be expected to keep his job, raising more than $3.8 million for his re-election. He touted the endorsement of Kansas political icon and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Sen. Bob Dole and picked up the backing of local mayors, law enforcement officials and groups such as the Kansas Farm Bureau.

But he was one of 25 incumbent Republicans running in a district Trump had lost.

Yoder’s subcommittee chairmanship put him at the center of the debate over immigration. He picked up Trump’s endorsement after Republicans proposed setting aside $5 billion that could be used to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

He drew criticism from the left, which argued that he didn’t do enough to help stop the separation of immigrant children from their parents when families attempted to enter the U.S. illegally. And he was attacked on the right when appropriations legislation allowed more legal immigration.

Davids also struggled with the issue. When a liberal podcast host in July asked her whether she would support abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she answered, “I do. I would, I would.” She recanted after winning a six-person primary race in August, declaring flatly in a television ad, “I don’t support abolishing ICE.”

But her stumble was a mere blip. She raised $4.3 million — most of it after mid-July, including more than $1.1 million after September — and emphasized the details of her biography.

Davids said Yoder had called to congratulate her and she thanked him for his years of service “because despite our policy differences it takes a lot to run for Congress, to put yourself out there and it takes a lot of work and a lot of voices, whether we agree with them or not.”

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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