Sharice Davids, a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas. Campaign photo

Another Native woman advances in historic year for Native candidates

Jason Nichols faces an August 28 run-off for the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District. An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that he had already secured the nomination.

Another Native woman is making history after winning her primary for a U.S. Congress seat in Kansas.

Sharice Davids, a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, stayed up all night watching the results of the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District. She finally found out Wednesday morning that she won her closely-watched race.

"I’m humbled to be your Democratic nominee," Davids wrote in a post on Twitter.

Though Davids must still face the Republican incumbent in November, her campaign has already made history. She is the first Native person to win a Congressional primary in Kansas and she's the first openly LGBT candidate in the state to advance to the general election ballot.

"Representation matters. That’s why we need Sharice Davids’ voice in Congress!" EMILY’s List, a Democratic group that endorsed Davids and has committed $400,000 in support of her campaign, said ahead of the primary on Tuesday.

As a first-time candidate, Davids, an attorney who worked at the White House during the Obama administration, faced five other opponents in the primary. Early results on Tuesday evening showed Brent Welder in the lead.

But Davids emerged victorious after the tallies from a pivotal county came in later than expected. She ended up with 37 percent of the vote to Welder's 34 percent, with unofficial results showing that she won two out of the three counties in the 3rd Congressional District, an area on the eastern edge of the state that includes Kansas City.

Kevin Yoder, a Republican, has represented the district for nearly a decade. He easily won his primary with 68 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial results.

"On to November!," Yoder wrote in a post on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

Yoder has easily won every general election since his first 2010. But Democrats are hoping 2018 will be different -- they are counting on dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump to drive voters to Davids.

Hillary Clinton barely carried the district in the 2016 presidential election so voters are already divided. In a sign of the tight nature of the race, Trump has pushed strongly for Yoder and sent Vice President Mike Pence to the state last month to campaign for the Republican incumbent.

"He was in town to raise money for Rep. Kevin Yoder - but we raised our voices in opposition to his record of hateful discrimination," Davids wrote on Twitter at the time.

Native Americans make up less than 1 percent of the population in the 3rd district so Davids cannot rely on the Native vote to boost her numbers. Most of the tribes are located in northeastern part of the state, in other Congressional districts.

As for Yoder, he doesn't have much a record on Indian issues despite spending four terms in Congress. But he was among the Republicans who broke ranks with his party and voted in favor of the Violence Against Women Act. He's also pressed the Trump administration to preserve VAWA grants.

The 2013 law recognizes tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians in certain situations. It is due for reauthorization this year, and Native women are seeking to expand on the historic sovereignty provisions.

Whether that happens before the November election is a big unknown. But the 2018 cycle has turned out to be a landmark one for Native candidates.

In New Mexico, Deb Haaland from the Pueblo of Laguna easily defeated five other challenger in her Democratic primary in June. She's heavily favored to win the general election in November because voters in the 1st Congressional District have sent a Democrat to Capitol Hill every year since 2009.

"Today is a historic day for women of color, and for all of America," Haaland wrote in a post on Twitter on Wednesday morning. "I am thrilled to see @sharicedavids has won her primary! We are now on track to have two progressive Native American women in Congress!"

In Utah, James Singer is the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District. The Navajo Nation citizen is the first Native person to appear on the general ballot.

Currently, only two tribal citizens are serving in Congress. Both are Republicans from Oklahoma -- Rep. Tom Cole, who hails from the Chickasaw Nation, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Cole and Mullin won their respective primaries and stand a strong chance of being re-election, especially Cole. But Republican turnout in Mullin's 2nd Congressional District trailed that of Democrats, who are leaning heavily toward another Cherokee citizen as their candidate -- Jason Nichols.

Though Nichols secured the most votes on primary day in June, according to the Oklahoma Secretary of State, he did not win a majority so he is heading to an August 28 run-off against Clay Padgett.

Elsewhere in Oklahoma, another Native woman is also fighting hard to make history. Amanda Douglas, a Cherokee citizen, is in a Democratic run-off for the 1st Congressional District. She faces Tim Gilpin on August 28.

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