Indian Country Today
Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas has used her first term in Congress to introduce legislation, connect with constituents and advocate for Indian Country.
Davids, Ho-Chunk, is seeking a second term representing Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, located in the Kansas City area. She faces two opponents on Nov. 3: Republican Amanda Adkins, former chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party, and Liberterarian Steve Hohe, a retired Air Force officer.
In 2018, Davids and Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico made history as the first two Native American women elected to Congress. The two are part of a historic class of freshman members, which included the biggest female group of delegates ever elected to the House.
“It might sound a little bit cheesy, but it really has been the honor of a lifetime to be able to serve in the House on behalf of the Third District here in Kansas,” Davids said.
Davids unseated four-term GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in 2018, gaining national attention as one of the nation’s first Native American, openly LGBTQ congressional candidates. The district’s voter registration leans Republican, but Davids has benefited from suburban voters’ dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump.
She described her first term as “certainly interesting.” Davids was sworn in during a government shutdown, has voted in a presidential impeachment and worked through a global pandemic.
Despite this, she believes a key part in grounding herself has included traveling home to Kansas for weekends and work trips. On these visits, she noted often speaking with constituents and taking note of their concerns.
“Taking that to D.C., talking to my colleagues and working on legislation, that’s really important. Things like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, that’s something really important ... to a lot of people,” Davids said.
A year ago, Davids introduced the Successful Entrepreneurship for Reservists and Veterans Act. This bill, nicknamed the “SERV Act,” helps veteran-owned businesses succeed by studying the barriers they face, like a lack of access to capital and credit.
“My mom was a 20-year Army veteran, and I think growing up in a military family, I've had the chance to see the ways we need to honor the promises that we've made to our veterans and service members,” Davids said.
The SERV Act passed the House last November and is being heard in the Senate.
Davids has also worked to address issues in Indian Country.
Alongside the Native cohort of representatives, Davids co-sponsored the Not Invisible Act, a bill aiding the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis.
Other co-sponsors were Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, and Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee.
It is the first U.S. law to originate with four members of Congress who are all citizens of federally recognized tribes. Trump signed it into law on Oct. 10.
Davids said the cohort’s differing political affiliations has been beneficial in making change.
“There are plenty of times you can point to getting more Republican buy-in” because of the two Native Republican representatives, she said.
“It’s not a partisan thing to support tribal sovereignty, to recognize the relationship between the federal government and tribal governments. I think it’s a really great thing for us to have two Republicans and two Democrats,” Davids said.
Another part of Davids’ first term included encouraging people to vote, and especially sharing the importance of Native voters in this historic election.
“Do not underestimate the power of the Native vote because we can make a huge impact, and of course, in years going forward,” Davids told Indian Country Today in August.
She has also been an advocate for other Natives seeking office, speaking at campaign events and giving advice to first-time candidates.
“I think I’m not alone in this when I say that both congresswoman Haaland and I are honored to be the first two Native American women to serve. But the work won’t be done until we’re talking about the fifth, sixth and seventh and 10th Native women.”
Davids has also endorsed Christina Haswood, a 26-year-old Diné woman seeking a seat in the Kansas House. Haswood is running unopposed Tuesday and is poised to become the state’s youngest sitting legislator.
Standing in the way of Davids’ reelection is Adkins, her Republican challenger.
In an hour-long debate aired on “4Star Politics” Monday, the candidates discussed issues such as health insurance, coronavirus relief and boosting the economy.
Adkins slammed Democrats for being part of a “shutdown culture” that has devastated businesses during the pandemic. Davids countered that a healthy economy requires healthy people and said slowing the virus is “one way we can help get our economy back up and going.”
On social media posts, Adkins has described Davids as being “far too radical for Kansas City.” Adkins has been endorsed by a number of prominent conservatives including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Davids has been endorsed for reelection by presidential hopeful Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and others.
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report