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Yoder wants ‘autopsy’ to determine reasons for heavy Republican losses in House

Yoder hopes for healing after election

"My hope is that we can find a way to heal and unify," said Rep. Kevin Yoder, after conceding defeat to newcomer Democrat Sharice Davids in the race for the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas.
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"My hope is that we can find a way to heal and unify," said Rep. Kevin Yoder, after conceding defeat to newcomer Democrat Sharice Davids in the race for the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas.

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas wants national Republicans to conduct a thorough “autopsy” to determine why the party lost so many seats in the House of Representatives — including his own.

Yoder signed onto a draft letter that House Republicans are circulating in response to the party’s dramatic loss of 40 seats in this year’s midterm elections. The copy, obtained by McClatchy, includes Yoder’s signature alongside those of Carlos Cubelo, a moderate Republican who lost his re-election race in Florida, and GOP Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. It’s unclear how many members signed it as of Friday, or whether the letter has been sent.

Stefanik served as the first female head of recruitment at the National Republican Congressional Committee — the House’s campaign arm — but only one of the 100 women she recruited won. Next year there will be 89 Democratic women serving in the House compared to 13 Republican women.

Yoder’s office did not respond to request for comment on the draft letter. Nor did the NRCC or Stefanik.

Yoder lost his race in a suburban district outside Kansas City by 9 percentage points to his Democratic challenger, Sharice Davids, who will be part of an historic class of 35 female freshmen Democrats in the House.

Yoder was deeply frustrated with what his team saw as a lack of NRCC support even before his loss. When the committee decided in September to pull out of spending in his district, Yoder didn’t receive a courtesy phone call. He learned the news on Twitter.

Yoder called NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers at the time to vent.

“When people ask me what I think of you, I can’t decide whether to tell them you’re a f***ing idiot or a f***ing liar. But now I think you’re both,” Yoder reportedly told Stivers. A source close to Yoder confirmed the quote, originally published by Politico.

In the letter, Yoder, Stefanik and the other members say the results of this year’s congressional elections “require an honest, transparent assessment” of what went wrong.

“Neither our Republican caucus, nor our party as a whole, can afford further erosion among key demographics,” the letter states. “The November elections resulted in our party falling short in races that were otherwise winnable.”

The letter points out that Republicans “lost a disproportionate number of seats in suburban districts and other key areas of our country” and “fell short across multiple demographics, including women, who represent a growing segment of America’s voting population.”

Downplaying or ignoring the causes for those losses “will lead us to repeat them,” the letter warns.

The letter asks the next NRCC chairman, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, to undertake “a thorough, transparent autopsy of NRCC operations to formally analyze what went wrong, what lessons were learned — including those learned from the successful efforts of our Democratic counterparts — and what will be done to better support the next generation of Republican congressional candidates.”

The autopsy should include everything from decision making to data, fundraising and polling to messaging and voter targeting, the letter says.

Bryan Lowry and Alex Daugherty of McClatchy’s DC bureau contributed to this report.
Lindsay Wise is an investigative reporter for McClatchy’s Washington Bureau. Previously, Lindsay worked for six years as the Washington correspondent for McClatchy’s Kansas City Star. Before joining McClatchy in 2012, she worked as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, where she specialized in coverage of veterans and military issues as well as the city’s Arab and Muslim communities.
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