As National Endorsements Come In, Kansas Congressional Race Heats Up

Jul 20, 2018
Originally published on July 19, 2018 5:04 pm

Six Democrats are lining up for a chance to unseat Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in the November general election. While the primary isn't until next month, the 3rd District race in Kansas has already attracted outside money, brought in national political figures and cost one state senator her leadership position.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his endorsement of Yoder Wednesday night.

Yoder's office has not commented on the endorsement, and Yoder has not publicly responded to the President's tweet. Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a fundraiser for Yoder.

Instead, Yoder spent most of Wednesday evening and Thursday morning promoting his budget proposal for the Department of Homeland Security. He serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security for the House Committee on Appropriations, and the subcommittee approved the budget proposal Thursday morning. Yoder appeared on Fox News Thursday to talk about the bill and its effects on border security.

The bill goes in front of the full appropriations committee next week, and if it passes, it will go to the full House for consideration.

Meanwhile, back in Kansas, a moderate Republican state Senator from Mission Hills endorsed Tom Niermann — one of Yoder's potential Democratic opponents — in the 3rd District race. Republican legislative leadership quickly booted Senator Barbara Bollier from her position as vice chair of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee in retaliation.

Bringing additional attention to the race, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, will be campaigning tomorrow in Kansas City, Kansas, for Brent Welder, another Democrat running for the 3rd District nomination. Welder, a lawyer, was a delegate for Sanders at the Democratic National Convention.

Joining Sanders at the rally will be rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the political world last month when she upset a 10-term incumbent and won the Democratic primary in New York's 14th congressional district. Welder's platform is similar to the ideas promoted by both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. 

The other Democratic candidates in the primary are Sharice Davids, MikeMcCamon, Jay Sidie and Sylvia D. Williams. None of the Democratic candidates have held elected office. The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face off against Yoder in November.

National attention means the race could get expensive for the candidates. According to the most recent campaign finance report data available, Yoder was the only candidate to break the seven-digit mark, with almost $2.7 million raised and more than $1.8 million cash on hand. However, as the Kansas News Service reported Wednesday, a lot of the money in Yoder's bank account has come from outside sources, including Republican PACs. Among Democrats, Niermann and Welder topped the list with just under $700,000 each in donations.

Even though he has held the 3rd District — which includes Johnson and Wyandotte counties — since 2011, Yoder could be vulnerable. Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district in the 2016 Presidential election.

Nicolas Telep is KCUR's morning news intern. You can follow him on Twitter @NDTelep.

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