Government & Politics

Iraq War veteran ends campaign for Congress after Leawood attorney jumps into race

Andrea Ramsey decided to run for Congress when she and other health care advocates gathered outside U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder’s office to protest the GOP congressman’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Ramsey, a 56-year-old Leawood attorney, officially launched her campaign as a Democrat for the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas on Tuesday morning. Ramsey has spent the past eight years as a board member for the Turner House Children’s Clinic in Kansas City, Kan., which provides medical care to underserved children in Wyandotte County.

Hours after Ramsey began her campaign, Joe McConnell, an Iraq War veteran, announced that he was ending his campaign that was launched only three weeks ago and endorsed Ramsey’s candidacy.

Jay Sidie, the party’s 2016 nominee, still plans to seek the Democratic nomination. Two other Democratic candidates, Reggie Marselus and Chris Haulmark, have also filed for the race.

Ramsey pointed to the day of the health care vote in May and the protest outside Yoder’s Overland Park office as the pivotal moment in her decision.

“And I held up a sign that said, ‘Stand up! Resist!’ And people from the community came and talked to me … and they told me the most personal things,” Ramsey said. “It was actually that day when people told me their stories, literally cried on my shoulder and gave me hugs, it was that day I decided I had to step up. I had to enter this fight.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Republican bill will lead to 23 million fewer people with health coverage by 2026. Yoder was one of the key votes in helping the bill pass.

C.J. Grover, a spokesman for Yoder, said in a statement that the Republican congressman “is focused on doing the job the voters of the Third District elected him to do — putting policies into place to help small businesses create jobs and grow paychecks. He’s working to reform our tax code, fix our broken health care system, and pass legislation to help working families, our veterans, and our military.”

Yoder won re-election by double digits in 2016, but Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district, which covers the Kansas City suburbs, in the 2016 presidential race.

Ramsey, a native of western New York with degrees from Boston University and Georgetown University, moved to Kansas in 2002. Her husband, retired Army Col. Will Ramsey, is the former director of public works for Olathe.

She worked as senior counsel for Overland Park-based engineering giant Black & Veatch from 2006 to 2012 and previously served as the vice president in charge of human resources for Quest Diagnostics, a Fortune 500 company that provides clinical laboratory services in multiple countries.

She began volunteering at the Turner House in 2009 and became a board member soon after that, she said. She stepped down as president and board chair to pursue the congressional seat.

During the eight years Ramsey served on the board, the clinic doubled its number of annual patients to 6,000 and expanded its services to include behavioral health and dental care, “which is an important service for kids in KCK — some of those kids have never brushed their teeth,” she said.

Ramsey also helped the clinic weather state budget cuts and find alternative ways to keep those programs running in recent years.

“I had to fight to keep the doors of Turner House open,” she said.

McConnell, a Bronze Star recipient who works for tech giant LinkedIn, had been seen as a strong candidate when he kicked off his campaign last month. McConnell said in an email that his family has “faced some challenging events ... over the past several weeks, unrelated to my run for Congress. After thoughtful consideration and long conversations with my wife, we have decided this is the best decision for our young daughter and our family at this time.

“I have talked with my neighbors and voters about the challenges facing our district,” he said. “I know the time, sacrifice and commitment it will take and our district deserves someone who is 100 percent committed to the task at hand. I believe that candidate is Andrea Ramsey and I look forward to supporting her campaign to ensure we defeat Representative Yoder and that Kansas families have a trusted voice in Congress.”

Haulmark, a 37-year-old IT manager who is deaf and lives in Olathe, announced his campaign last week with a pair of YouTube videos where he explains his decision to run in sign language. Haulmark said in an email he “announced my candidacy to my cultural community — the Deaf community because I am Deaf and I am running for the U.S Representative seat as an American and Kansan.”

Sidie, who lost to Yoder by double digits in 2016, said he wants the party to coalesce around one candidate to pool resources.

“I was willing to step up and fight the battle when nobody else would. Now, that I’ve moved the ball down the field and we’ve got the party re-energized, people want to jump on the bandwagon,” he said.

Ramsey, who said she was awakened by the 2016 election, said that having a competitive primary will help grow the Democratic Party in the Republican-leaning state.

“I think there’s been a general consensus that the primaries have been a little more exciting on the Republican side for years,” she said. “Maybe I’ll have to spend more money, but, look, it will be good for me as a candidate. It’ll make me sharper on the issues. Worthy competition is always good.”

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3