A Native American woman from Kansas won her primary race for Congress on Tuesday night, potentially setting herself up as the first LGBTQ person to represent the state at the federal or state level.
Sharice Davids, a 38-year-old amateur mixed martial arts fighter, attorney, and former White House fellow, emerged from a six-candidate field to clinch the Democratic nomination in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, which includes Kansas City and nearby wealthy suburbs like Overland Park. If she is victorious, she would also become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Davids won 37% of the vote, narrowly beating out Brent Welder, a self-styled progressive who earned the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and several left-leaning organizations, who earned 34% of the vote.
The race was marred by a delay in vote counting in populous Johnson County, where 4 out of every 5 residents in the district lives. The delay — which also affected the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination — was apparently caused by computer problems with new voting machines.
The district has long been in the crosshairs of national Democrats, who see it as one of several suburban districts that they need to win to seize control of the House of Representatives in November’s upcoming elections.
Soon after Davids’ victory, the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman took to Twitter to announce the organization would be classifying the general election, where Davids will face off against incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, as a “tossup.”
Davids was also praised by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which seeks to elect LGBTQ people to office.
“This victory shows the fighting spirit Sharice brings to her campaign and the progressive issues she cares about — so Kevin Yoder should be worried,” Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston and the president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement. “While Sharice speaks about inclusion and representing all her constituents, Kevin is chumming it up with Mike Pence, embracing the divisive and unproductive agenda that dominates the White House and so much of Capitol Hill.
“Sharice will break down barriers with a win in November and add a desperately needed perspective to the halls of Congress,” added Parker. “She will become a historic first, but more importantly, she is determined to push forward positive solutions for Kansans and all Americans.”
Due to Welder’s popularity among the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, some Twitter and Facebook users continued to criticize Davids for failing to embrace a Medicare-for-all plan and for failing to refuse to take corporate campaign donations, arguing that she will not provide enough of a contrast with the conservative (and anti-LGBTQ) Yoder, and will not energize Democratic voters to turn out in November. Some pointed to the delay in reporting election results as suspicious, particularly since it was results from Johnson County that put Davids over the top.
Davids’ victory comes shortly after incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) signed a law that allows child placement agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples and other prospective parents to whom an agency may register a moral or religious objection. A few years earlier, Colyer’s predecessor, Sam Brownback, eliminated nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ state workers.
“Since 2011, our state has been ‘ground-zero’ in the fight against discriminatory ‘religious freedom’ laws,” Tom Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, said in a statement. “Tonight, however, voters in the third congressional district have sent a clear message to the nation: Fairness and tolerance are Kansas values.”