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Polls Show Kansas' 3rd Congressional District Race Tightens

Democrat Sharice Davids opened a second campaign office on Saturday, this one in Overland Park. She is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District.
Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
Democrat Sharice Davids opened a second campaign office on Saturday, this one in Overland Park. She is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas' 3rd Congressional District.

All four major political ratings organizations currently consider the race for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District a toss-up.

FiveThirtyEight moved the race Saturday from "leans Republican" to a "toss-up" between incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder and Democrat Sharice Davids.

It comes on the heels of two pieces of good news for Davids, a lawyer who is making her first run for office, though she still lags behind Yoder, the incumbent, in fundraising.

A New York Times/Siena College Poll has Davids up 51 percent to 44 percent. The poll is of a series of what the Times calls "instant polls"; the website tracks as calls, which started in Kansas on Friday, are made and results tabulated. It's important to note the poll has a margin of error of five points.

In addtion, ProPublica reported that Davids' campaign collected $700,000 from ActBlue, an online service that raises small donations for Democrats. But the most recent campaign finance reports showed Yoder with $1.8 million cash on hand compared to Davids' $128,000. The reports go through July 18,  and since that time, hundreds of thousand of dollars from outside groups have poured into race. (The next FEC report for candidates is due Oct. 15)

Davids opened a second campaign office Saturday at 87th and Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas.

“We’re fighting for everyone to be seen and be heard," she told about 250 people who packed into an old strip-mall storefront.

Davids stood on a chair while she spoke to a cheering crowd, which included her mother.

“She has some strong ideas and she’s from a background that I’m ethnically interested in,” Overland Park resident John Norman said. Davids would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress.

Stevi Brick from Prairie Village didn't vote for Davids in the primary, but is planning to help with door-to-door campaigning.

“She represents my values and I think she’s outspoken enough to put her message out there for people to understand it,” Brick said. 

Last month, Yoder's campaign said Davids told a podcast that she wants to abolish the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Davids has run TV ads denying that, and told KMBC that she "could have been more articulate."

But she told KCUR in an interview before the new office opened that she's put the controversy behind her. 

"Certainly I think we’re going to be able to start focusing on the issues I’ve been hearing the most about which is health care,” she said.

Top issues

Republicans are emphasizing law enforcement as a top issue in the race. On Friday, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) released a new TV ad featuring Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, who says Davids "sided with left-wing radicals" and "turned her back on law enforcement." In a news release, CLF said it has reserved $2 million in ad time in Kansas City and on digital platforms.

Davids said she supports police but believes agencies need more training — and she wants to make sure they get it. 

“I think this is a really strong example of how Yoder and his allies are one, spreading misinformation and two, trying to distract from his poor voting record,” she told KCUR, adding that she has relatives who are police officers and denies Hayden's allegation.

Yoder also has been hammering Davids for not making  joint appearences. Yoder appeared alone at a KCK Chamber event Friday that Davids refused to attend.

"It’s unfortunate my opponent refused to show up today, and she needs to explain why she won’t participate in longstanding candidate forums," Yoder tweeted Friday.

Davids also skipped a Johnson County Chamber of Commerce event.

"Kevin has agreed to five debates," campaign spokesman C.J. Grover told KCUR in a text. "We are certainly happy to entertain a debate a few days before Election Day, but would love to understand why she won't agree to any of the other five before then."

Grover is talking about an Oct. 29 televised debate sponsored by the Kansas City Star. Davids has agreed to that one, and suggested there weren't enough people at the other events.

“We have to do it in a way that the most voters can see and hear from us,” she said..

Yoder did not debate nor make any joint appearances with Jay Sidie, his 2016 opponent.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

Copyright 2018 KCUR 89.3

Sam covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.
Sam Zeff
Sam grew up in Overland Park and was educated at the University of Kansas. After working in Philadelphia where he covered organized crime, politics and political corruption he moved on to TV news management jobs in Minneapolis and St. Louis. Sam came home in 2013 and covered health care and education at KCPT. He came to work at KCUR in 2014. Sam has a national news and documentary Emmy for an investigation into the federal Bureau of Prisons and how it puts unescorted inmates on Grayhound and Trailways buses to move them to different prisons. Sam has one son and is pretty good in the kitchen.