Tuesday’s election was historic for many reasons. The Democrats picked up the highest number of seats in the House of Representatives since the post-Watergate election in 1974, and Republicans gained crucial seats in the Senate. But the real story of last week’s election is that of a changing America. On Jan. 3, 2019, there will be more women, more people of color and more LGBTQ people sworn into Congress than ever before. In districts from New Jersey to Maine, Florida to South Carolina and California to Oklahoma, Democrats rode a wave of enthusiasm to repudiate President Trump. That excitement on the left rippled through the least likely of states: Kansas.
Kansas has been a Republican stronghold for decades. It hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932 and hasn’t had a single Democratic representative in eight years. Former Governor Sam Brownback spent his tenure slashing taxes to the most minuscule levels while gutting public education and infrastructure spending. Due to a lack of public services, affordable housing and decent schools, businesses were forced to leave the state or simply shut down, thus causing the Kansas economy to crater. On Tuesday night, Democratic State Senator Laura Kelly defeated voter fraud conspiracy theorist Kris Kobach in the race for governor. But the highlight of election night in Kansas came out of the 3rd Congressional District.
Sharice Davids is a member of Ho-Chunk Nation, an indigenous tribe located mainly in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. She graduated from Cornell Law School and spent eight years as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. After her professional MMA career, Davids was awarded a prestigious White House fellowship in late 2016, working for the Obama administration as Trump prepared to take office. After her fellowship, Davids returned to Kansas and announced her intention to run against incumbent Representative Kevin Yoder.
Donald Trump narrowly lost the Kansas 3rd in 2016, so this district was always seen as a possible pick-up for the Democrats, but Sharice Davids represents something more than just a purple congressional seat. She, along with Deb Haaland of New Mexico, will be among the first two Native American women to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first openly gay representative from Kansas and, at 38 years old, one of the youngest representatives in history.
The Democratic party is changing. And on Tuesday night, it embraced the ever-changing America, one that is younger, more diverse and less entrenched in Beltway politics. For the first time in history, less than 38% of the House Democratic caucus will be made up of white men. Across suburban America, once seen as a GOP base, voters embraced the most progressive Democratic candidates in history, and even in the conservative suburbs of Kansas City, the message resonated.