Elections

Trump, Pelosi and LGBTQ protections: Davids and Yoder face off in only debate of race

Kevin Yoder’s comment on the EPA shocks challenger Sharice Davids

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and Democratic challenger Sharice Davids met in a 3rd District debate Tuesday in Kansas City. In this excerpt, the candidates clash over the Environmental Protection Agency's importance.
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U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and Democratic challenger Sharice Davids met in a 3rd District debate Tuesday in Kansas City. In this excerpt, the candidates clash over the Environmental Protection Agency's importance.

Kevin Yoder said Sharice Davids was rooting against America if she plans to go to Congress and be an obstructionist against President Donald Trump.

Yoder, the four-term Republican incumbent, made the comments after Tuesday’s debate with his Democratic challenger, the only such event planned in the race for the 3rd congressional district.

Davids, told of his comments, said that “sounds ridiculous.”

“Why would I be running for Congress but for any other reason than I think that we have an opportunity here in these midterms to improve the direction of our country?” Davids said.

Yoder came into Tuesday’s debate with Davids after a new surge of support from Trump.

But instead of relying on the president, Yoder emphasized a bipartisan approach and characterized Davids as a radical liberal.

Trump tweeted earlier Tuesday his “total endorsement” of Yoder, saying he is “highly respected, strong on Crime, the Border, Military, Vets and Second Amendment.”

Yoder was on the attack early, criticizing Davids’ Democratic stances and lack of specific answers, and he evoked the specter of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, saying Davids is “so far out of the mainstream.”

He later described Davids’ campaign as being run by “liberal extremists,” and attacked her views on immigration.

Davids criticized Yoder’s voting record and ties to Trump. Yoder has voted with the president 92 percent of the time.

“The president’s approach on most issues has been chaotic at times,” Davids said.

She has based much of her campaign on the Democratic talking points of the 2018 cycle. She’s called for access to affordable healthcare, protecting people with pre-existing conditions and decried big money in politics.

Yoder has worked to emphasize what he describes as an “independent” record. He said he was the only Republican on the House Appropriations Committee to support a Democratic amendment to block any attempt to defund Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Yoder has also highlighted his speaking out against family separations at the southern border in his capacity as Homeland Security budget chairman.

On another topic, Yoder declared during Tuesday’s debate that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was “one of the most destructive agencies.”

The comment appeared to shake Davids, who had to compose herself before saying, “I’m floored by the fact that you think the most destructive department is the EPA.”

Yoder said after the debate that he doesn’t want to eliminate the EPA, but said the agency has been “very destructive” for the economy. A regional EPA office employing hundreds is located in Yoder’s district.

Davids described the country as being in “a healthcare crisis.” People can’t get to work or school if they can’t afford their healthcare, she said.

“This is a crisis that is going to affect our country for generations,” Davids said.

Yoder said healthcare in general and the opioid crisis are some of the most critical issues facing the country. He then criticized Davids for wanting “open borders.”

“That brings a lot of drugs into our country,” Yoder said.

Early voting started in Kansas more than a week ago. If she wins in November, Davids, a lawyer and amateur mixed-martial arts fighter, would become the first openly gay member of the Kansas congressional delegation, as well as the first female Native American lawmaker in Washington.

Asked if Congress should pass federal LGBTQ protections, Davids advocated for the move and said “LGBT people should be considered a protected class.”

Yoder was not clear about the issue during the debate but clarified afterward that he would support making LGBTQ a protected class under federal law.

If Yoder wins he will return to Congress for a fifth term. The Overland Park Republican has rarely faced such a strong Democratic challenge since first winning election to the House in 2010.

Yoder said he would support any of the Republicans running for speaker, including Kevin McCarthy or Steve Scalise and criticized Davids for possibly voting for Pelosi for speaker if the Democrats take the majority.

“She’s trying to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes,” Yoder said of Davids.

Davids said “Washington is broken,” and that the leadership of both parties needs to be held accountable. She declined to say whether she would vote for Pelosi, a common attack of Republicans on Democrats across the country.

During his pitch to voters, Yoder espoused his longstanding ties to the community and his experience in both the Kansas Legislature and the U.S. House.

“I’ve led on these issues,” Yoder said. “She hasn’t.”

Davids said Yoder has not been representing the community’s interest, and reiterated her commitment to affordable healthcare.

“Kevin Yoder has had his opportunity to make things better,” she said.

The Star’s Bryan Lowry contributed to this report.
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