Ho-Chunk member Sharice Davids recently announced her candidacy for a seat on the U.S. House of Representatives for the Third District in Kansas.
She is running as a Democrat against six other candidates. The primary election is set for Aug. 7, when the Democrat candidate will be selected for the Nov. 6 General Election. Davids is hoping to be the first Native American woman elected to Congress.
It is her first experience in running for public office.
Davids earned her associate degree at Johnson County Community College, her Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. From there, she attended and graduated from Cornell for Law School.
She was the chairperson of the then newly-created 12 Clans Inc. financial diversity group for the Ho-Chunk Nation, then resigned to join the White House Fellows program in Washington D.C., in 2016-17. Now, she has her sights on an elected position in national government.
Although she hasn’t always had the notion of running for office, she has been building up the idea over the years.
“There’s been a couple of different times in my life when it came to my mind that I needed to be more active and more involved,” she said.
“When I was in my early 20s, there was an election I watched play out in Missouri that I was very surprised about. It went a completely different way than I thought it would and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I should be more involved in this.’ So I started paying more attention, listening to NPR, reading the newspaper more, and just try to keep up to date on everything that’s going on in the world in a way I hadn’t before,” Sharice said.
She was trying to figure out what she was going to do when she finished her bachelor’s degree when she attended a “Diversity in Law” event.
“I saw very quickly that a lot of the people who make decisions for us, whether it’s the legislatures or executives in the federal or state governments, that a lot of those people had a law degree. So I figured, if I ever want to run for office or if I ever want to be a decision maker, like in public service, it seems like a law degree is a good way to learn the skills that I need,” she said.
From an audiobook, she learned that the composition of people running for office has shifted so much over the last 50 years. It used to be that more “regular people” would run for office – meaning people who are not career politicians and people who are not super wealthy. Now the country is trending toward people being career politicians and people having to be very wealthy to be able accumulated the resources needed to run for office.
“Well, it’s not supposed to be that way,” she said. “So, I would say I’ve had a growing interest in it.”
After the last election cycle, the 2016 election cycle, not just the election results but the actual election cycle, she felt really disappointed.
“I felt that there was a lot of stuff happening that I thought fell out of line with what I viewed as American values and what I feel like this country is about or what I think we should be about,” Sharice said. “I definitely got more interested then.”
Sharice pointed to a local election where a woman was the clear frontrunner, but she withdrew her name and it left a big void in the race. She was disappointed that there were not enough people with different experiences and no one with any federal policy experience.
“I have that experience. I decided that we should always have a woman running in each race. There are plenty of qualified women who can do a good job. Not having women in the race seemed like a big void to me. Also, I have a unique set of experiences and federal level qualifications that makes sense for me to be able to bring to the race,” she said.
She began to seriously consider her candidacy and her chances of winning.
“I had my assumptions about where other people were at – in terms of feeling satisfied with the slate of candidates that were there and that sort of stuff. My perception was that people were eager for another type of candidate. Just because I think that doesn’t mean everyone else thinks that, so I did go and talk to a lot of people to ask them if they were satisfied with the slate of candidates and if they would be receptive to a candidate like me,” Sharice said.
“It was not true polling, but something like that. I asked a number of people whose opinions I respected and whose support I would like to have,” she said. “Honestly, it would have taken some pretty serious people to deter me. I don’t know if I could have been deterred from doing it.”
Chris Hallmark, a notable candidate for the same position, recently dropped out of the race. He has announced his support for Sharice.
Campaigning has been very tiring, she said, but a job that has many rewards.
“It takes up pretty much all my time. I do a variety of things, so I try to go to as many events as I can,” she said. “We are setting up meet-and-greets at people’s homes so that I can have the chance to talk to people in a smaller setting. That way I can get a better understanding of what people are concerned about, what they’re hoping for, for this next wave of people who are coming in, who will be in Congress. Also, we’re really trying to get on the phone, get the word out, build up some support.”
She’s had a good amount of press coverage to help her campaign effort.
“People are interested in hearing what is going on in the race and this area. The third district in Kansas is a really interesting place. I think people might look at Kansas and see a red box,” she said. “Kansas has a really diverse set of thinkers and we have a lot of young people who are very active and trying to make a change.”
Recently, they had a kickoff for her campaign and close to 100 people showed up to volunteer. Many of them had visited the campaign website.
“We did a kickoff event so that I could meet everybody and so they could meet each other. That’s the kind of stuff that’s so exciting to see. There are so many people who are excited about the political process. There’s a ton of people who have never participated in a campaign before or known a candidate before. It has been really great,” she said.