Meet the Progressive Kansan who could be our First Lesbian Native-American Congresswoman
Sharice Davids is a one-in-a-million candidate. Raised by a veteran single mother, Sharice worked on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation before being selected to the prestigious White House Fellowship program. She’s also a Cornell-educated lawyer. And she’s hoping that her progressive, grassroots platform will lead her to claim the Democratic nomination for Kansas 3rd Congressional District. Her campaign’s ethos has been defined as “opportunity, equity, and action” with a focus on human rights, equality, healthcare, and sensible gun control. She’s fierce, determined, intelligent, and as we found out, eager to listen and act on the concerns of Kansans. We recently spoke with Sharice and asked her to share her story and why she is running for Congress.
“We can not expect equality without representation. I am honored to join the many other members of the LGBTQIA community who are focusing their talents on public service and pursing elected office. And I am humbled to have the endorsement of Run with Pride. As we continue pursuing full equality for all, the support of this organization is invaluable.” - Sharice Davids
It’s increasingly clear that our country has reached a watershed moment. The decisions made in the coming years will define our country for generations. If you’re elected, how do you intend to steer America towards a brighter future?
We’ll reach a brighter future by listening. Listening to the people that are affected by the policies and laws that are passed by Congress. That is what I will do. We know that conversations change when there is a diversity of voices at the table. My perspective and experience is unique to Congress, but it’s not to the rest of the population. We need our decision makers to reflect the broad range of different people in our country, Congress must be filled with people with different life experiences. Right now, we know that voices like mine, and many others, are not represented.
“I would start by supporting the reintroduction and passage of the Equality Act.”
KS-03 faces its own problems right now, what makes you the best candidate to represent Kansans in Congress?
My experience working on ground-level implementation and federal-level development of policy will ensure that I am able to develop legislation that will be beneficial to our district, specifically on the issues most important to our communities. Education is a hugely important example of this. I’m looking forward to improving federal policies around that. As a product of public education, earning my associate’s degree at Johnson County Community College, and my law degree at Cornell, I know how important hard work with a good foundation can be in determining success. As the 3rd District representative, I will advocate for strong federal support and partnership on public education.
You served under both Bush and Obama, and even for a short time under Trump. What was that like?
I was there for the White House Fellows Program, a one-year intensive leadership and policy program. I was there during the last part of the Obama administration and the first few months of the Trump administration. Suffice to say, the final few months made me realize just how much we need qualified, experienced, and thoughtful leaders to step-up and participate in government.
“We need to listen more, judge less.”
It’s an uncertain time for all Americans right now, but LGBTQ+ citizens have seen a barrage of attacks from this government. What do you see as the LGBTQ+ community’s main struggles right now, and if you’re elected, how will you work to resolve them?
I would start by supporting the reintroduction and passage of the Equality Act. There is still a huge struggle caused by the lack of federal protections, specifically in housing and jobs, that needs to be addressed. There are, of course, many struggles, including homelessness, suicide, and criminal justice issues that I will advocate on and address in Congress.
There’s a good chance you’ll end up running against Republican Kevin Yoder who doesn’t exactly have the best record, and not just on LGBTQ+ issues. What do you make of him as a politician?
Kevin Yoder may have started off his career with good intentions of representing the people of Kansas, at the state level then at the federal level, but he no longer speaks for this district’s values. He has lost sight of the voices of the community and now acts as a representative for major corporate and special interests, like the gun lobby and payday lenders.
The Democratic party has such a broad diversity of voices, how do you ensure that everyone is heard?
The most effective way to ensure that everyone is heard is to support candidates with a broad range of experience. At the end of the day, we need representatives that represent us, not because they have exact the same experience as we do, but because they recognize the reality of our experiences and are willing to listen.
It’s safe to say that the whole world is experiencing serious, political polarization right now, how do we achieve progressive goals while keeping the United States united?
We need to listen more, judge less, and be willing to have hard conversations.
“Each of the experiences you mention shape a part of what contributes to my ability to not only listen, but to communicate thoughtfully and with empathy.”
You’re a Native American, MMA-fighting, lesbian lawyer; I think it’s safe to say you’ve lived an interesting life. How have your life experiences motivated you to run for Congress?
I know what it’s like to feel overlooked and that no decision-makers are listening. Each of the experiences you mention shape a part of what contributes to my ability to not only listen, but to communicate thoughtfully and with empathy. What I have seen missing from our representatives in Congress is a willingness to participate in uncomfortable conversations with their constituents, and an ability to really understand the wide variety of needs and experiences of their constituents.
Is there anyone from your personal life or in the public sphere who inspired your campaign? If so, why?
I’ve been inspired by all the work that went into ensuring that a person like me can run for Congress. That ranges from my mother’s hard work and support, to people like Shirley Chisholm and the many generations of advocates working to improve the world for following generations.