Davids: GOP’s gerrymander of 3rd District map a gambit to thwart will of voters

Lawsuit challenges shift of Wyandotte County population

By: - March 28, 2022 9:09 am
Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davis, right, offered testimony Thursday along with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, also of Kansas, on a compromise bill focused on boosting U.S. manufacturing and resolving supply-chain problems. (Submitted)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davis, right, offered testimony Thursday along with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, also of Kansas, on a compromise bill focused on boosting U.S. manufacturing and resolving supply-chain problems. (Submitted)

TOPEKA — The Republican-led Kansas Legislature voted to take a cleaver to the congressional district served by Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and replace the top half of culturally diverse Wyandotte County with people more apt to favor a GOP candidate.

The move to shift extra Republicans to the district was anticipated and protested at town hall meeting across the state and, predictably, became grist for legal challenges claiming it was improper to fracture communities of interest in Wyandotte County. GOP lawmakers, over Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto, placed Kansas City, Kansas, in the 2nd District instead.

Davids, who has served the 3rd District since 2019, combined life as an attorney and mixed martial artist before getting into politics. She told the Kansas Reflector podcast that she had a longstanding dislike for gerrymandering.

“Before I even ever thought about running for Congress, I have cared about this kind of issue,” she said. “Whether it’s a state Legislature or a member of Congress … electeds shouldn’t be deciding who is going to get elected. The communities — the people, the voters — should be deciding who their elected officials are.”

The new map of Kansas’ four congressional districts is in limbo, but if affirmed by the courts a path for Davids’ re-election would be more rocky. The road to victory would be smoother for presumed Republican nominee Amanda Adkins, who lost the 2020 race against Davids and worked previously as a campaign manager for former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Sam Brownback.

Adkins’ campaign has emphasized national importance placed on the 3rd District race as Democrats try to hold their narrow majority in the House and Republicans attempt to return to power in the chamber. She said Cook Political Report rated a Davis-Adkins showdown a toss-up.

“Make no mistake,” Adkins said in a fundraising appeal, “our race will decide who has the majority in Congress next year, and we can’t let Democrats go unchecked for two more years.”

Davids was at the White House in mid-March when President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022. The law provides federal funding to organizations that serve victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, the incidence of such violence escalated.

Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconin, said the legislation enhanced prevention efforts, including on college campuses, and added tools to hold perpetrators accountable. It will deliver more resources for rural, LGBTQ and tribal communities, she said.

“It really addresses some of the jurisdictional issues that tribes face when trying to keep keep folks safe in their tribal communities, particularly for when things happen with someone who’s not native, who’s not from the community,” she said.

Davids said the federal government had a role to play in addressing possession of “ghost” or unregistered firearms, including the weapon used in the March shooting by an Olathe East High School student of a school administrator and school resource officer.

“It’s really upsetting and heartbreaking that we even have a situation where kids and teachers and folks who work in schools even have to ever worry about these kinds of issues,” Davids said.

Davids said state and federal officials should drive good policy designed to get untraceable weapons out of circulation. Demand for these firearms is greatest among people who can’t walk into a gun store and pass a background check.  The Congress, she said, could move ahead with legislation closing loopholes in federal law on firearm possession.

She said the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have worked on versions of the America Competes Act, which would revitalize the country’s research, innovation and manufacturing sectors to expand domestic manufacturing. It is a piece to the economic puzzle along with major infrastructure and budget bills signed by Biden.

“When you’re looking at bringing manufacturing home, domestically, all of these things are going to be able to work together. At least for an infrastructure nerd .. it’s kind of a cool series of bills to see coming across,” Davids said.

Davids also endorsed legislation requiring members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to place personal investments into a blind trust to reduce use of insider information by lawmakers. It’s been alleged members of Congress relied on early warnings of COVID-19 to alter investment portfolios.

“Regardless of whether or not any laws at that time were broken, it was clearly inappropriate, at a minimum. People need to be able to trust that we’re here to serve in the public interest.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the district into which some Wyandotte County voters were moved.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.