Sharice Davids’ suc­cess proves John­son County is turn­ing bluer

The Kansas City Star - - Opinion - BY STEVE ROSE

In the na­tional ex­plo­sion known as the midterm elec­tions of 2018, ground zero had to be the Kansas 3rd District con­gres­sional race. There, a po­lit­i­cal novice who is Na­tive Amer­i­can, openly gay and whom hardly any­one had ever heard of a year ago, swept away a his­tor­i­cally pop­u­lar, four-term Repub­li­can in­cum­bent with 20 years of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, renowned for his cam­paign­ing skills and fundrais­ing prow­ess.

Sharice Davids was the most un­likely of can­di­dates to beat Rep. Kevin Yoder. But that was be­fore Yoder was body-snatched by Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump.

To re­ally grasp how that al­liance had mor­phed two men into al­most one big Trump, con­sider Yoder’s an­swer to the fi­nal ques­tion in the only de­bate held be­tween the two can­di­dates: Asked which area of gov­ern­ment Yoder thinks should take the big­gest cut, his an­swer was the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. That bud­get had al­ready been cut by a third, and the EPA’s role in com­bat­ing cli­mate change had been re­duced to al­most noth­ing. Yet Yoder clung to the Trump agenda, even though he knew he was los­ing mod­er­ate Repub­li­can vot­ers who were switch­ing to Davids. His an­swer baf­fled me, as it did Davids.

The Trump-Yoder axis went much deeper than that one an­swer. It in­cluded vot­ing to re­peal Oba­macare sev­eral times and join­ing forces to fund the bor­der wall. It went deep enough that Davids saw no rea­son to talk much or ap­pear of­ten through­out the cam­paign. In­stead, she would spend mil­lions of dol­lars on ads at­tack­ing Yoder and the Trump agenda, in­clud­ing health care, but mostly just link­ing the two to­gether.

The re­sult was al­most as­tound­ing. Not only did Davids carry the district by nine per­cent­age points, in­clud­ing John­son, Wyan­dotte and a sliver of Mi­ami coun­ties. But more as­tound­ing, Davids, a Demo­crat, dom­i­nated Yoder in Repub­li­can John­son County alone with 52 per­cent. That means there was a his­toric wave of Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents in John­son County who fled to the Demo­cratic can­di­date.

It is true that Hil­lary Clin­ton car­ried the 3rd District against Trump in 2016 by a sin­gle point. But that was a nar­row vic­tory. This was a shel­lack­ing. And we know why. As the midterm elec­tion drew closer, each poll in­di­cated Trump’s un­pop­u­lar­ity was grow­ing in the district, while Yoder’s pop­u­lar­ity, as ex­pected, was shrink­ing.

Trump was not only un­pop­u­lar. He also had strong dis­ap­proval rat­ings. In short, he was de­tested by Democrats, in­de­pen­dents and even a large swath of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans. This sub­ur­ban melt­down, where a formerly red com­mu­nity was turn­ing bluish, was hap­pen­ing through­out the coun­try. But our sub­urbs were the poster child.

Much the same phe­nom­e­non was hap­pen­ing at the state level, where Demo­cratic state Sen. Laura Kelly trounced her op­po­nent, Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach, in the race for gov­er­nor. Statewide, she beat Kobach 48-43 per­cent.

But look at what hap­pened in John­son County. There, Kelly trounced Kobach, 55-38 per­cent. In other words, John­son County car­ried Kelly to a com­fort­able rout.

It is un­for­tu­nate that the down-bal­lot Demo­cratic vot­ing swept away some out­stand­ing Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors such as state Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fair­way, an ex­tra­or­di­nary leader who lost to a vir­tu­ally un­known Demo­crat. John­son County’s 25mem­ber leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion now in­cludes 10 Democrats. Not long ago, Democrats were aw­fully scarce in the group.

The ques­tion now is: Will Davids be a one-term won­der? Af­ter all, I am the first to ad­mit that lit­tle is known about her po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. If she is too far left, it will be good­bye Sharice in the next elec­tion in two years. We’ll know that only af­ter she has cast some crit­i­cal votes and made her voice heard on key is­sues.

All we know for now is that she rep­re­sents a shift from the agenda of Trump and Yoder. Davids was part of a blue wave in the House. Her unique back­ground and the trounc­ing of a bright, up-and-com­ing Repub­li­can leader com­bined to make this race one of the mar­quee elec­tions any­where in Amer­ica.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.