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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat, has a tough road ahead during the upcoming midterm election cycle. Beyond her opponent, her district has been unfavorably redrawn by the Kansas GOP.

The Ho-Chunk citizen represents District 3, which is made up of the Johnson and Wyandotte counties on the eastern edge of the state. The new law takes from her parts of the northern Kansas City area where she performs the best and moves them into the neighboring District 2. The map then shifts Lawrence, Kansas, from the neighboring 2nd into District 1 of western and central Kansas.

Davids said on “ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez,” that she was elected by the voters in District 3, and they hope to be represented in Congress and state legislator positions.

“The most important thing is that the folks in the 3rd District in Kansas, and really across the country, that the process is one that allows for the people’s voice to be heard,” she said. 

Davids is also Kansas’ lone Democrat in the U.S. House of four seats, the state’s first openly gay elected to Congress and one of two Native women in Congress. Republican Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, of New Mexico, is the other. In 2018, Davids made history with New Mexico’s Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, as the first Native women to be elected to Congress.

The map additionally moves the liberal northeast Kansas enclave of Lawrence — home to the University of Kansas campus — into a district with conservative central and western Kansas communities some six hours away by car.

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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, Democrat, tried to veto the House’s decision on Feb. 3 but six days later the Republican-led House voted 85-37 to overturn it.

Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Meers, in an email to Indian Country Today, said the new redistricting map goes against the voters in District 3 who asked the Legislature to keep the communities together.
  
“This attempted power-grab splits apart the only majority-minority county in the state — a clear violation of the redistricting guidelines and outright gerrymandering,” Meers said. “Kansas Republicans ignored both rural and urban Kansans testimonies, making it clear that they are all too willing to cheat their way into political power. Kansans deserve a fair map and fair representation.”

The ACLU of Kansas, the Campaign Legal Center, along with pro bono assistance from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, filed two separate lawsuits on Feb. 14 in the Wyandotte County District Court against Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Michael Abbott.

Four Democratic Douglas County residents and Patrick Schmidt, a Democratic congressional candidate in the 2nd District, also filed a lawsuit in Douglas County on March 1, naming Schwab and Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew as defendants, according to The Kansas City Star.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt attempted to dismiss the lawsuits, but was ruled against by the Kansas Supreme Court on March 4. The court said the decision should be decided by a trial court first.

“We are eager to get the case moving in Wyandotte County District Court so that we can show just how blatant of a partisan and racial gerrymander this map is, and how it tramples on the state constitutional rights of our clients,” Sharon Brett, ACLU of Kansas legal director, said in a statement. “We look forward to putting on our evidence and demonstrating our case.”

According to the U.S. Census, Wyandotte County, part of Davids' district, is made up of a 23 percent Black population and a 30 percent Hispanic population.

On March 7, Schmidt filed motions in Wyandotte County to dismiss the two challenges.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said, before the map was introduced, the state should draw districts to elect four Republicans to Congress. A video was posted of Wagle on social media where she said she needs to “give” Davids “some more Republican neighborhoods,” the goal being to guarantee four Republican representatives.

Davids will be facing either Amanda Adkins, who she defeated in the 2020 general election, or John McCaughrean for the District 3 seat. The Republican primary is scheduled for Aug. 2. 

Davids’ political stance

She serves on the joint economic committee, committee on small business and committee on transportation and infrastructure.

Some bills she’s sponsored recently include: the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, the Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act of 2022 and the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act.

Davids voted in favor of the Violence Against Women Act, which President Biden signed into law on March 16. She said it was important that tribes have jurisdiction, especially from non-Native offenders, tribes should have access to criminal databases and the need to include Maine tribes and Alaska Native tribes.

“It’s just been a huge priority for me to make sure that I’m doing everything I can as a federal lawmaker to get those resources and support that the federal government is supposed to be sending to Indian country,” she said.

In response to Ukraine’s war with Russia, Davids said she supports Ukrainian citizens and asked President Biden to extend the Temporary Protective Status for them.

“We’re going to continue to do what we can, and I’m staying up to date and watching what’s going on and looking for ways to be helpful,” she said.

Davids is one for five Indigenous voting members in Congress, all in the House. Besides Herrell, the others are Oklahoma Republicans Tom Cole of Chickasaw Nation and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation. Native Hawaiian Kai Kahele, Democrat of Hawai’i, is the fifth. 

ICT’s Aliyah Chavez and the Associated Press contributed to this report

 

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ICT’s Aliyah Chavez and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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