Steve Rose

Kevin Yoder was derailed by Trump, but he served Kansas well

In July, President Donald Trump tweeted his strong endorsement of Rep. Kevin Yoder.
In July, President Donald Trump tweeted his strong endorsement of Rep. Kevin Yoder. File photo

Kevin Yoder and I may have been two Republicans on different sides in his re-election bid for a fifth term in the U.S. Congress. But that does not change the fact that while he served, Yoder accomplished many positive things for the Kansas 3rd District.

Before he officially leaves office next month, the community he represented may want to express deep gratitude and best wishes for a successful future.

At another time under a different president, Yoder might have been re-elected for decades. But he served alongside a president who was extremely unpopular in Yoder’s district, which includes mostly Johnson and Wyandotte counties. The surprise was Yoder losing a majority in Republican-dominated Johnson County. President Donald Trump ended Yoder’s political career, at least for now.

Yoder was a rising star in Congress. As a freshman, he became the youngest member of the prestigious and powerful House Appropriations Committee. During his tenure on that committee, he rose to leadership positions that might well have resulted in Yoder eventually becoming chairman.

Most notably, Yoder leveraged his role on that committee to secure tens of millions of dollars in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, where major health research is the primary mission. Many conservative Republicans sought to cut that budget, so Yoder’s success was a major feat.

Yoder was not one of those congressmen who became so enamored with Washington that they forgot where they came from. He returned home virtually every weekend, not to relax, but to attend to his district. Yoder’s constituent services were among the best I have ever seen. He attended about every community event that was held. He was always visible in his district.

Yoder worked quietly behind the scenes to make things happen, efforts for which he often did not receive adequate credit. His diligence in securing federal funding to help complete the road system at 159th Street and U.S. 69 led to a massive mixed-use development in Overland Park, in conjunction with the Price Brothers Management Company. Yoder was a friend to the business community, but at the same time, he championed causes such as early childhood education.

Had there been no Trump at the helm, I believe Yoder would have shown his leadership skills in other significant ways, and he would have been re-elected for as long as he wanted to serve. Instead, too many Yoder supporters like me split with him over his allegiance to Trump’s agenda.

That doesn’t mean we were not lucky to have him representing our district for a number of years. Yoder is a decent, caring, community-minded individual who just cozied up too much with a president who dragged him down to defeat.

Yoder still has a bright future ahead of him. If he wants to stay involved in politics and doesn’t mind continuing to travel back and forth to Washington, he may want to follow the lead of fellow Kansas Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins. She is retiring from her congressional seat and just announced she has opened a lobbying firm, which can be a very lucrative business. But Yoder, unlike Jenkins, may want to follow the ethics guidelines and wait awhile after his departure to launch such a practice.

It is quite possible Yoder may pop up as a candidate for a different post at the state or federal level. On the other hand, he may want to use his law degree from the University of Kansas, drawing from his lengthy political experience as a Kansas legislator and a congressman.

One thing is certain: Kevin Yoder will find a way to utilize his considerable skills, talent and experience.