Government & Politics

‘Eerily silent.’ Kansas GOP candidates trade blows over Trump impeachment inquiry

Amanda Adkins (left) and Sara Hart Weir (right) are seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district.
Amanda Adkins (left) and Sara Hart Weir (right) are seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district. File photos

As national Republican groups pillory freshman Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids for backing the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, the issue has also drawn two of her GOP challengers into an escalating feud that promises to dominate the race for the coming months.

Kansas GOP congressional candidate Sara Hart Weir has called out rival Amanda Adkins in recent weeks for remaining “eerily silent” on the question of impeachment.

In a campaign email the day before Thursday’s 232-to-196 House vote in favor the the inquiry, Weir said: “When it comes to the impeachment process: Sharice Davids is in lock-step (as she always is) with Nancy Pelosi.. I’m a no. And Amanda Adkins?”

On Thursday, after Weir launched a Facebook ad campaign and went on a local radio show to press her case, Adkins, a former Kansas Republican chair, finally pushed back.

“My opponent’s attacks are irrational and disappointing, and reflect how long she has lived and worked as a lobbyist in DC.,” said Adkins, referring to Weir’s previous career as a lobbyist.

Both women are seeking to unseat Davids, D-Kansas, in a district that narrowly went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Davids’ 9-point victory over a Trump-backed incumbent in 2018 was largely seen as a rejection of the president in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district, which covers Johnson, Wyandotte and Miami Counties. But the messaging from Republicans in recent days shows the party thinks Davids could be vulnerable on impeachment in the GOP-leaning district.

Every Republican from Kansas and Missouri opposed the measure, while every Democrat from region, including Davids, supported the inquiry into whether Trump improperly sought to compel Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

The Trump Victory Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee both released statements condemning Davids within minutes of the vote.

In recent days, Weir appears to have fully embraced the Trump movement and is tethering her campaign to the president. She’s repeatedly attacked Davids on the issue, but she’s also sought to paint Adkins as unwilling to stand up for Trump.

“My Republican primary opponent, Amanda Adkins --- though has been eerily silent,” Weir said in the campaign email.

Adkins: Trump ‘delivered results’

Weir, the former president of the National Down Syndrome Society, had already launched an ad on Facebook that attacks both Davids and Adkins on the issue. She went on KCMO Talk Radio Wednesday and directed her harshest criticism at Adkins.

“I feel very strongly that the constituents and Republicans in the 3rd District need to know where she stands on the issue of impeachment,” Weir said. “To me, her silence-- we’re about month, 30 days, into this process-- her silence is telling. She has one finger in the air waiting to see where the wind blows.”

Adkins issued a response Thursday afternoon after the House vote, accusing Weir of spreading misinformation about her stance on impeachment and asserted her support for the president without delving into the specific details of the inquiry.

“I’ve been vocal about the dysfunction on display with the DC circus since Trump’s election. The Democrats have run from the Mueller report, to the Kavanaugh debacle, and now to impeachment proceedings,” Adkins said.

“All the while President Trump has actually delivered results that matter for families including a strong economy, more than 4 million new jobs and the highest median household income on record in history. Kansans deserve continued economic opportunity, and a representative interested in serving the people more than playing silly games.”

Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, said that embracing Trump too much would be a risk for Republicans in the suburban district for the general election, but that it makes sense in the short-term as Weir tries to win the primary.

“Given that conservatives will probably decide the Republican primary, it’s probably smart short-term politics for Weir to oppose impeachment and hit Adkins on it so that she doesn’t get pegged too much as the moderate in the field. I would bet that her campaign is thinking more about the primary than the general against Davids right now,” Miller said in an email.

Brooke Goren, the spokeswoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Adkins and Weir are in “a damaging race to the right that will make whichever candidate emerges from the Republican primary even more unpalatable to voters across the third district.”

All impeachment, all the time?

As of the start of October, Davids had nearly $1.2 million in her campaign coffers. Adkins led all challengers with nearly $266,000 cash on hand, according to her campaign finance filing.

Weir had more than $230,000 cash on hand after making a $35,000 personal loan to her campaign.

A third GOP challenger, Adrienne Foster, launched her campaign this month and won’t report fundraising totals until January. Foster has also criticized Davids’ support for the impeachment inquiry.

Davids has framed herself as a moderate during her first year in office. GOP groups are hoping that her vote in favor of the inquiry shatters that image.

“Davids’ failure to put her hatred of President Trump aside to get things done for Kansans will result in her defeat next November,” NRCC spokesman Bob Salera said.

A week before the vote, Davids rejected the GOP claim that the impeachment inquiry would prevent other work from getting done, pointing to the recent passage of her bill to increase funding for the federal Women Business Center program.

“People came here to try to serve their constituents and their country and I think people are going to continue to do that,” Davids told The Star.

She said she has still not made a decision on how she will vote on impeachment if the House committees conducting the inquiry recommend it.

“I don’t vote on anything until I’ve seen the language,” she said.

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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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