Who Is Sharice Davids? The First Openly Gay Member Of Congress To Represent Kansas

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Sharice Davids was a mixed martial arts fighter, lawyer, and White House fellow before being elected to represent Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. In 2018, Davids defeated a Republican congressman as part of a Democratic wave that saw the party retake the House of Representatives. She was re-elected in 2020 and 2022, and she is now the sole Democrat in Kansas’ congressional delegation.

Early Life

Sharice Davids was born on May 22, 1980, in Frankfurt, Germany, to a single mother who served in the United States Army for 20 years. Her interest in martial arts was evident from an early age. She adored Bruce Lee and would practice his kicks while wearing a black belt around the house. (She even tried taekwondo but had to drop out because it was too expensive.)

Davids graduated from Leavenworth High School in Kansas before attending Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She resumed martial arts training and took karate and capoeira classes while attending college.

Cornell Law School is where Davids obtained her law degree. She worked on economic development projects with Native American tribes as a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin. She competed as an amateur MMA fighter while attending law school and later attempted to compete as a professional in the UFC’s strawweight division.

Political Career

In 2016, Davids became a White House fellow, where she worked in the United States Department of Transportation under Anthony Foxx, President Barack Obama’s Transportation Secretary. With her fellowship coming to an end in the first few months of the Trump administration, she became concerned that progress on issues such as the environment and gay rights might stall under Trump. That concern inspired her to use politics to oppose the new president’s agenda.

“We had to focus on getting more people elected to decision-making positions because that’s how we offset someone who wants to destroy the EPA being appointed to run the EPA,” Davids told The New York Times in 2018.

That year, Davids ran for Congress in suburban Kansas City. She was one of more than 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender candidates running for office across the country, dubbed a “rainbow wave” by some.

“Having LGBT people in the room as peers while decisions are being made will shift the conversation,” she said during her campaign. “I believe it is critical that the lived experiences and perspectives of LGBT people be included in discussions that affect all of us.”

In the Democratic primary, Davids defeated five opponents by campaigning on protecting the Affordable Care Act rather than Medicare-for-all. (On the same night, Democrat Deb Haaland was elected to Congress in New Mexico, making the pair the first two Native American women elected to Congress.)

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In 2020, she defeated Republican Amanda Adkins by nearly the same margin as she did in 2016. Republicans, on the other hand, made Davids’ congressional district more difficult in 2022 by adding rural counties and Republican voters during redistricting.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Davids touted her support for abortion rights, as did the majority of her district. Davids also emphasized the importance of defending democracy and working across the aisle in Congress. (Nearly three-quarters of the bills she’s introduced or co-sponsored have been bipartisan.)

Despite the district’s more conservative lean, Davids was re-elected in 2022.

“It does feel like we are watching history being made right now, serving in Congress when we are facing such serious and huge threats to our institutions, to our rights,” Davids said on election night. “When we look back on this moment in time decades from now, everyone in this room and everyone who voted in this election will be able to say that when history called on us, this community proudly answered.”

Children’s Book

Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman, a children’s picture book written by Davids, was published in 2021. “In an author’s note, here’s what I hope our story conveys,” Davids wrote. “That each of us has our own path—and the most important thing in the world is to stay true to yourself.”

 

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