Voters in the Kansas 3rd District had a chance Tuesday to hear answers of substance from the two major party candidates for Congress — Kevin Yoder and Sharice Davids.
The Star, WDAF-TV and KCPT-TV sponsored the hour-long debate between the two candidates.
Yoder, the four-term Republican incumbent, was the clear aggressor in the debate. He showed more of a mastery of policy details, while repeatedly criticizing Davids for vague answers and inconsistent positions on issues such as health care and immigration.
“She tries to play coy on these issues,” Yoder said. “She won’t say what her actual immigration ideas are. She won’t say what her actual health care ideas are. She’ll just attack President Trump and Republicans.”
There was more than a little truth in Yoder’s criticisms. Davids had several opportunities to defend her views on important topics in the debate, yet did not do so. Instead, she sought to attach Yoder to Trump.
“We need to make sure that we have a member of Congress who’s going to stand up for Kansas values, not for Donald Trump’s values,” she said.
In the closing days of the campaign, voters should ask Davids to be more specific in her policy positions. What does “bipartisan” immigration reform mean? How can the Affordable Care Act be changed or improved? Does she support or oppose a tax on fuels to reduce the damage from climate change?
Debate viewers will not hear clear answers from Davids on those questions.
At the same time, Yoder — debating an opponent for the first time since being elected to Congress — made several inaccurate or misleading claims. He said Davids supports abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, known as ICE. Davids has repeatedly said she does not.
Yoder said Davids supports a version of universal, government-funded health insurance. Davids has said universal coverage is a goal, but she has not embraced Medicare for all.
Davids must provide clearer answers on this important policy question. After the debate she continued to hedge on the issue, one she may confront if elected to Congress.
Yoder downplayed any lasting connection to Trump, an attack Davids used repeatedly. Voters know the truth: Yoder, like most Republicans, is a reliable vote for the Trump White House.
Trump endorsed Yoder, again and in full voice, on Tuesday.
The incumbent tossed out a few other clunkers. He said the way to avoid a projected $1 trillion budget deficit is to rely on growth and cut federal spending — precisely the formula used by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Kansans know how that turned out.
Yoder said he never rooted for former President Barack Obama to fail. That is simply untrue. During Obama’s two terms, he repeatedly opposed the White House — on health care, the debt ceiling, the budget, tax reform. He said it was Obama’s duty to compromise with Congress and not the other way around.
In 2011, Yoder was a member of the most conservative House delegation in America.
His most startling statement in the debate was his criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency. Both candidates were asked to name an agency that should be eliminated. Yoder said the EPA is “one of the most destructive agencies out there.”
It was an astonishing assertion, though Yoder later said he wouldn’t eliminate the EPA.
We invite 3rd District voters to watch the entire exchange on The Star’s Facebook page. We think you’ll find both candidates reflect their parties: Yoder is a mainstream Republican; Davids, a mainstream Democrat.