TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans risk losing a suburban Kansas City congressional seat Tuesday they have held for eight years, partly because of tepid support there for President Donald Trump.
Kansas incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder is facing a formidable challenge from Democratic newcomer Sharice Davids, who would be the nation's first LGBT Native American in Congress.
Activists are excited about Davids unusual resume, which also includes fighting mixed martial arts bouts, a law degree from Cornell University and a stint as a White House Fellow at the end of President Barak Obama's administration.
Yoder has Trump's endorsement, but in 2016 Trump narrowly lost Yoder's district, a mix of fast-growing bedroom communities, established suburbs and poorer city neighborhoods. Yoder also has a key role in immigration policy in the House, and the issue has proven tricky.
Davids' campaign upended conventional wisdom that Democrats have their 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.
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 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 appeared at the time to be 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. A member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation, she was raised by a single mother-soldier.
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