Gay Native American wins Democratic primary in deep-red Kansas

Sharice Davids won the crowded Democratic primary in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, and now she has a chance to make political history.
by Meghan Sullivan /
Sharice Davids
Kansas Democratic congressional candidate Sharice Davids, the state's first Native American and gay nominee for Congress.Danielle Hull Robinson / AP

Sharice Davids won the crowded Democratic primary in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday, and now the 38-year-old attorney has a chance to make political history.

If Davids beats four-term Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder in November, she’ll become the first Native American woman to serve in Congress and the first openly gay member of Kansas’ congressional delegation.

“I keep saying how surprised I am that we’re in 2018, and we’re still having all these firsts,” Davids said in an interview on Native American web program "Wassaja."

Republicans hold all four Kansas seats in the U.S. House, but Democrats hope to flip two of them in November. They’re targeting Yoder this fall, because Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in the 2016 presidential race.

For her part, Davids, who was a White House fellow during Barack Obama’s presidency, does not mind a tough fight: Prior to entering the world of politics, she was a professional mixed martial arts fighter.

“My experience tells me that if it’s not hard, it’s probably not going to have as a big of an impact, so I look forward to the challenge,” Davids said in the "Wassaja" interview.

Davids was endorsed by EMILY's List, which works to elect women who support abortion rights. She has called for treating gun violence as a public health crisis and supports expanding Medicaid's health coverage for more Americans. She is also critical of tax cuts championed by President Donald Trump.

A resident of the Kansas City metropolitan area, Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and has lived and worked on Native American reservations. According to Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today, Davids is one of a record 128 Native American candidates vying for political office in this election cycle.

“This year, the growth just exploded — and with really qualified candidates too,” Trahant told NBC News. “I think particularly for Native women, the idea that in the entire history of the country, there has never been a Native American woman in Congress … it’s something that fires people up.”

A record number of LGBTQ candidates are also expected to be on the November ballot. According to Sean Meloy, senior political director of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a non-partisan political advocacy group, roughly 400 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer candidates will be vying for office this election cycle — approximately 200 of them on the federal or state level.

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