Republican U.S. House candidate Amanda Adkins, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids on Nov. 8, said during a Tuesday debate that Davids contributed to inflation by voting for the agenda championed by President Joe Biden. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Kansas congressional candidates Amanda Adkins and Sharice Davids clashed in a debate pivoting from abortion to war and from the economy to climate change without straying far from smackdown commentary about two prominent politicians not on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Incumbent Democrat Davids and Republican challenger Adkins tangled Tuesday night for television and online audiences of Fox4 Kansas City and the Kansas City Star. Not much ground was broken during the final debate of the 2022 campaign in the 3rd District, which is a gerrymandered district anchored by vote-saturated Johnson County and included residents of Wyandotte, Anderson, Franklin and Miami counties.
The candidates have been tangling since the 2020 campaign, a race won by Davids over Adkins by 10 percentage points, and the current rematch affirmed their animus for each other.
In this TV-studio debate, Adkins accused Davids of creating a bogus website designed to spread misinformation about Adkins. Davids said she had no idea what Adkins was talking about.
Davids said Adkins had aligned herself with a growing list of extremists, including election deniers U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden.
Adkins blamed President Joe Biden for destabilizing U.S. foreign policy and criticized the Democratic president’s robust support of Ukrainians trying to fend off the Russian invasion. Adkins said inflation was an outgrowth of Davids’ rubber stamping of the president’s agenda.
Davids alleged Adkins’ had long been attached at the hip to former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Sam Brownback, who was the unpopular signer of income tax reform legislation throwing the state government into a five-year budget tailspin. Davids said the Adkins-Brownback alliance on social issues was demonstrated by their determined opposition to abortion.
Both candidates questioned Biden’s decision to move ahead with a massive college loan forgiveness program. Davis said wiping away debt didn’t get at the root issue of excessive higher education costs. Adkins said Biden was unfairly passing personal debt to general taxpayers, including people who didn’t go to a university.
Adkins and Davids dodged a question about whether they supported a federal assault weapons ban. Adkins said the solution to relentless waves of U.S. gun violence would be found at the local, not federal, level. She said the fix required collaboration among police, schools and a health system that dealt with challenges of mental illness.
Davids said she was proud of the bipartisan gun safety bill signed by Biden, but Congress would need to make “common-sense moves here that are going to keep people safe.”
“We can’t trust my opponent,” Davids said. “The problem isn’t that she’s pro-life. It’s that she wants politicians making your health care decisions for you and would support a federal abortion ban.”
Davids said Adkins celebrated in July when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade precedent on abortion. Adkins endorsed in August the proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that said women didn’t have a state right to abortion. The amendment was rejected by 170,000 votes. The 3rd District voted against the abortion measure by a 2-to-1 margin.
Davids pointed to Adkins’ decision in September to support the “Blueprint to Save America” legislative agenda offered by U.S. House GOP conservatives. It proposed 23 anti-abortion policies, including a federal ban on abortion without exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of a mother. The legislation would send physicians to prison for performing abortions after seven weeks of gestation.
Adkins said she endorsed the GOP blueprint document, but not every bill layered into it because she was an independent thinker. She had previously said Congress shouldn’t devote itself to passage of a federal ban on abortion, but clarified that she would vote against that type of bill if elected to the U.S. House.
“The people of Kansas have already spoken on this issue and I respect that,” Adkins said. “I don’t support a federal ban.”
Davids and Adkins were asked about comments by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who would likely step in as U.S. House speaker with a Republican majority, that a U.S. recession would compel federal lawmakers to conclude “they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine” in terms of additional military or humanitarian aid in 2023.
“Biden failed in Ukraine,” Adkins said. “We have had weak foreign policy for the last couple of years.”
Davids, who has voted to send assistance to Ukraine, said it would be unacceptable to capitulate to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The international coalition’s sanctions against Russia and flow of aid to Ukraine woul be essential unless conditions on the ground in that war changed, she said.
“To hear my opponent indicate anything that Vladimir Putin has done is attributable to any president of the United States is reprehensible,” Davids said.
On climate change, Davids and Adkins agreed global warming was a genuine threat in the United States. While Davids supported investments in clean energy sources such as wind, Adkins said U.S. oil and gas production ought to be expanded and investments made in nuclear power.
“If we’re going to take a big swing,” Adkins said, “we need to focus on the nuclear capacity.”
In her opening and closing remarks, Adkins said Davids’ votes for federal COVID-19 and stimulus bills — two signed by President Donald Trump and one by Biden — contributed to reckless federal spending. She said federal expenditures had to be curtailed and the budget balanced due to rising debt.
Adkins said flushing so much federal disaster cash to individuals and businesses predictably drove up inflation in the economy.
“The number one issue this election cycle is inflation,” said Adkins, who endorsed inclusion of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “We’re entering a recession in this country. People are scared.”
Davids, who is seeking her third term in Congress, said anxiety people felt about rising costs of food, fuel and housing was justified. She said part of the solution was growth of domestic manufacturing and the building of infrastructure to cut dependence on overseas suppliers. She said she was proud of votes for bills that helped keep small businesses open during dark days of the pandemic and sped development of a vaccine.
“Anybody who claims they have a plan but only spends their time criticizing the votes I’ve taken, I mean, you’re just not the right fit for this district,” Davids said. “Frankly, my opponent really doesn’t have the credibility on this issue. She was right there alongside Sam Brownback as they were, you know, pushing this disastrous tax experiment.”
Davids pushed back against the idea of a federal balanced budget amendment.
“It’s an extraordinary step to start trying to amend the constitution every single time that we don’t agree with the direction the legislature is going,” she said.
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