What Voters Need to Know: The Much Watched Kansas Races

Among Kansas’ most exciting elections this election cycle is the race for governor and the race for United States representative for the 3rd congressional district.

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 Sharice Davids is mounting a formidable challenge to Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder for the U.S. Representative seat for the 3rd congressional district.

Kansas Races Are Nail Biters

By Samuel Ast

Among Kansas’ most exciting elections this election cycle is the race for governor and the race for United States representative for the 3rd congressional district.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and assistant minority leader in the state senate, Laura Kelly, is facing off against Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach. Kobach, a Republican, squeaked through his primary against current Governor Jeff Colyer by only a few hundred votes.

In addition to the voting troubles experienced in Johnson County, Kobach is in the unique position of running for statewide office while overseeing the state’s election process. A vocal supporter of president Trump, Kobach also led the now defunct voter fraud commission formed by the president in the wake of the 2016 elections. Despite the absence of widespread voter fraud, reporting from the Wichita Eagle shows that the secretary of state continues to allow county officials to block voters from casting ballots. “Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox moved [Dodge City’s] only polling location to a building south of the city limits,” the Wichita Eagle reported. Sarah Smarsh notes in the Columbia Journalism Review that due to a 2013 voter citizenship law, that “by the end of March 2016, nearly 31,000 registrations by eligible voters had been either canceled or suspended.”

Kobach has proven divisive among other Republicans in the state, with prominent state figures, like former governor Bill Graves, crossing party lines to endorse Kelly. Kobach has long been outspoken on issues concerning immigration. During an October rally in Topeka, president Trump characterized immigration in a zero-sum way, playing on negative themes like fear and crime. At the rally, Kobach said, “it’s time to put Kansans first, not illegal aliens.” On the other hand, Kelly has made the race about healthcare and education policy. Perhaps most importantly, Kelly has made it her goal to capitalize on the disillusionment of many in the state over former governor Sam Brownback’s tax cuts.

Elsewhere in Kansas, Democratic candidate, and Kansas native, 38 year old Sharice Davids is mounting a formidable challenge to Republican incumbent, Kevin Yoder. Davids served as a White House fellow with the Department of Transportation during the Obama administration.

Yoder has represented this district for 8 years, and he serves on the House Appropriations committee as well as the Homeland Security and Financial Services subcommittees. It is his time on the Homeland Security subcommittee that has been instrumental to the Trump administration’s efforts to build a border wall. In addition, Yoder was a proponent for the Republican tax cuts passed in late 2017 that lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

During his run for a fifth term, Yoder seems somewhat resistant to fully embracing the president, though he has supported many of Trump’s policies, including siding with a majority of Republicans in the House who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

A New York Times/ Siena College poll taken on the weekend of October 17 shows Davids leading Yoder by 9 points. It remains to be seen what effect the Democratic nominee at the top of the ticket will have on races down the ballot. District 3 went for Hillary Clinton by 1 percent in 2016.

The Davids campaign is focusing mainly on greater access to quality healthcare through expansion of Medicaid, increased gun control, and new tax cuts for the middle class. Digital ads have proliferated throughout the district, many of which are extremely negative.

Most of the negative advertising has been paid for by national political action committees like the House Majority PAC and the Congressional Leadership Fund rather than the campaigns themselves. In one ad, Davids is vilified as a “radical liberal”, with Yoder portrayed as the law and order candidate. If recent polling and opposition to Kris Kobach is any indication, this race will be a nail biter. If elected, Davids would be the first openly gay Native American woman to become a member of the United States Congress.


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