Rep. Sharice Davids reflects on her first 100 days in Congress

Democratic House of Representatives candidate Sharice Davids speaks with supporters after her election victory on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, in Olathe, Kansas. (AP Photo / Colin E. Braley)

Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, was one of the first Native American women elected to the House. She shares a bit of insight with Indian Country Today

This mid-April, the freshman class of political office-holders celebrated its first 100 days in office. Among them is Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, an attorney and former professional mixed martial artist, who now serves as the U.S. Representative for Kansas’ 3rd congressional district.

In her first 100 days, Davids has demonstrated her position on the issues as an advocate for the Affordable Care Act, fair and legal voting practices, political accountability and small business success. These points are accentuated on her congressional website:

“April 12 marks 100 days since Rep. Sharice Davids was sworn in as a member of the 116th Congress. In her first 100 days in office, Davids has worked hard to deliver on her promises to the people of Kansas’ Third District to be accessible, protect our healthcare, make sure government is serving the people, invest wisely in infrastructure, and improve economic opportunity for all.”

Additionally, Davids has met with every member of the Kansas Congressional Delegation, and has co-sponsored 40 bills, more than half are bipartisan.

In a telephone interview with Indian Country Today, Davids discussed several of the initiatives she has focused on in her first 100 days. She also expressed a bit of appreciative disbelief in making political “Herstory.”

Throughout the article/interview Davids’ accomplishments are listed, compiled courtesy Sharice Davids communications team.

Vincent Schilling: I wanted to say thank you for a few minutes of your time. Of course, I wanted to meet the historic Sharice Davids in person. And so, if you have some time in the future, would love to say hello, shake your hand. Maybe you'll put me in a headlock, have me tap out. Something like that.

Sharice Davids: (Laughs) Sure thing.

Vincent Schilling: I just wanted to say, congratulations on the first 100 days in office.

Sharice Davids: Yes, having a really great team around me is super helpful in making sure that we're running through the goals and everything that we're hoping to get done.

Vincent Schilling: That's quite a milestone, 100 days in Congress and this is after you made it to a historic position. How do you feel just where you're standing right now?

Sharice Davids: Sometimes it's kind of... I don't know if "mind-boggling" is the right word. It is surreal to think about where the campaign started, and what the whole process was like. And then, now to be very much in the day-to-day of representing the 3rd District in Kansas. It's surreal, at a minimum.

Third District Accomplishments by Sharice Davids

Davids ran for office to bring Kansans voices to Washington. In her first three months, she has been present and accessible to people across the Third District so she can hear their ideas and concerns and bring them to DC. She:

  • Opened fully functional district office locations in both Johnson County and in Wyandotte County. In Wyandotte, there had not been a Congressional office in nearly a decade.
  • Held her first town hall to directly answer constituent questions.
  • Hosted a mayors roundtable and met with representatives of the Wyandotte County Unified Government and the Johnson County Commissions.
  • Established a reoccurring monthly Popup Office in Spring Hill.
  • Attended or hosted events in 12 cities across all three counties.

Vincent Schilling: You've done a lot for not just your district, but for your state, as well as for Congress. And I'm going to call out a couple of specifics. You've done a lot of work for the Affordable Care Act, and in a political environment that did not necessarily support it. The President of the United States, he was like, "Let's get rid of it."

Sharice Davids: Yeah. Well, the thing that I think is so interesting about the political environment is that we've got the President who clearly doesn't want the Affordable Care Act to continue to exist, but what I saw when I was running, and I think what we saw with so many candidates coming in this year, is that there are a lot of people who really value the Affordable Care Act and want it to continue. There's a lot of people who recognize that there are gaps in places where there need to be improvements made, but by and large, the things that we got when the Affordable Care Act was passed, like protections for people with preexisting conditions... I think that there are things that the people who are on the ground living with the effects of these policy decisions and this legislation, recognize the value of the Affordable Care Act. I think that that's the thing that I feel a lot more than the President making comments and taking actions that would be detrimental to the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare-oriented accomplishments by Sharice Davids

Too many families struggle with the cost of healthcare, and that’s why Davids has fought to bring down the cost of healthcare, including prescription drugs and premiums, and protect people with pre-existing conditions. She:

  • Urged Democratic leadership to focus on strengthening and improving the Affordable Care Act.
  • Co-sponsored the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Healthcare More Affordable Act.
  • Met with local constituents and healthcare providers to discuss solutions including Kansas Hospital Association, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, St. Luke’s, Children’s Mercy, KU Med, Vibrant Health, Southwest Boulevard Family Health Clinic and New Birth Company.
  • Voted for a bill to protect people with pre-existing conditions and brought Prairie Village resident Laura Robeson as her guest to the State of the Union to highlight need to protect pre-existing conditions.
  • Began work on lowering the cost of care through her role on the New Democrat Coalition’s healthcare task force.

Vincent Schilling: You're doing a lot of work to kind of hold other politicians accountable such as the For The People Act, the first bill you supported, and the Voting Rights Advancement, Native American Voting Rights Act. So you've done a lot of work to keep this environment and this political structure intact.

Sharice Davids: Yeah, and I think that one of the things that I always try to keep in mind is that when you have groups that are being marginalized or disenfranchised, it's bad for the entire country. Some things are so longstanding that I think that it takes a new wave of folks coming into office to reevaluate and re-look at the direction, especially around voting rights. I think with the Native American Voting Rights and then the Voting Rights Act, we are just trying to recommit.

Voting and political-oriented accomplishments by Sharice Davids

Davids has remained committed to making sure government is working for Kansans and that our elected officials are actually serving the public. She:

  • ​Co-sponsored The For the People Act (H.R. 1) to tackle money in politics, fight corruption, and strengthen and protect voting rights. This was the first bill she supported in office.
  • Introduced a voting rights bill that passed as part of H.R. 1 to give people the right to petition the Department of Justice to investigate voting complaints, ensuring every vote is counted.
  • Co-sponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Native American Voting Rights Act, to ensure every eligible voter has access to the electoral process.

Vincent Schilling: You are the first Kansas representative in decades to serve for the transportation and the infrastructure committee.

Sharice Davids: Yeah. I was so surprised when I learned that it had been so long since someone from Kansas was on Transportation and Infrastructure. I think the reason that it was surprising to me is because this area is a vital throughway for so much of the transportation for the rest of the country. The freight that comes through here on trucks and on rail is just immense. The idea that we didn't have somebody from our state on Transportation just blew my mind. I was going around and talking to the members who are already on the committee. I guess it paid off to go around and just spread the good word of Kansas, because I was able to get onto the committee.

Transportation-oriented accomplishments by Sharice Davids

Given Kansas City’s key location as a transportation hub for the entire country, Davids has advocated for wise investments in transportation and infrastructure to grow our economy and keep our communities safe. She:

  • Became the first Kansas Representative in decades to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. She was also assigned to the subcommittees of Highways and Transit, Economic Development, and Aviation, where she serves as Vice-Chair.
  • Highlighted Kansas' Third District in committee hearings on infrastructure and small business challenges.
  • Requested greater federal resources for the US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Levee Safety Program through the appropriations process to help protect our region from future flooding.
  • Met with multiple local transportation groups to get input on their priorities including KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Thales Air Traffic Management.

Vincent Schilling: You were named to the Small Business Committee.

Sharice Davids: Yeah, the Small Business Committee. I've been so involved with economic development and entrepreneurship for years and years. So being able to get onto the Small Business Committee is one of those things that resonates with me. I think we do our best work when there are issues in areas where we're passionate about it. When I was doing economic development in Native communities for tribes and stuff, I learned so much about what economic development - or the potential for it can do. Small business is a huge piece of that work, whether it's supporting individuals who are getting off the ground and trying to start their own businesses or helping community banks make capital available. The community development financial institutions that are really important in a lot of places where people are underbanked, or not banked at all. Those are the kinds of programs that I know they pay dividends when we're investing in them. So I look at it as a way to really contribute to that entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Small Business-oriented accomplishments by Sharice Davids

Davids has worked to expand economic equality and opportunities for all, including working families and small businesses. She:

  • Was named to the Small Business Committee where she has advocated for pipelines and access to capital.
  • Worked with representatives from local Chambers of Commerce including Overland Park, Kansas City Kansas, Greater Kansas City, Shawnee, Spring Hill, Gardner, Olathe, Leawood, and Northeast Johnson County.
  • Hosted a roundtable with federal employees in the district impacted by the government shutdown and worked to get back pay for them.
  • Co-sponsored a bill to address the student loan debt problem by encouraging employers to offer student loan assistance as a tax-exempt benefit for employees.
  • Participated in four Sharice’s Shifts, an outreach program to connect directly with local workers, businesses, and residents of the Third District.

Vincent Schilling: So, all this said... To talk about your 100 days, from a personal perspective, you are an icon. Especially to young Native women, I would imagine, some must look up to you and say"Holy moly. Wow. I see someone in the government that I've never seen before, in a position I've never seen before." How does that resonate with you?

Sharice Davids: I don't know that that's something that I can really process properly. I feel occasionally... Sometimes when I go to events or... There have been different times where groups have been out in DC and I've had the chance to go and meet with some of the large gatherings, the NCAI. And when I go to those things, sometimes I realize. But with my day-to-day, I'm doing meetings, and right now I'm in my district, I'm going around and trying to do the task at hand. For example, I went to a domestic violence shelter this week. So, my day-to-day feels very much like the focus is on the specific topics and issues and legislation.

But then when I have that chance to take a step back and realize that folks like Deb Haaland and I are bringing a completely different lived experience and perspective to all of this ... and that it will be a part of making sure that other people after us just see that not only is it a possibility, but it is likely. I think that I only get to think about that every now and again, which is probably good because it's a little bit overwhelming.

Vincent Schilling: Well, you are history. Well, "herstory." I still remember on election night, I tweeted a photo of you and Deb Haaland and Peggy Flanagan, and I later labeled the article "herstory", and everybody was really responding to it. It was incredible. 

Congresswoman, thank you for your time, I genuinely appreciate it very much. Thank you for everything you do, and I certainly look forward to speaking to you again soon.

Sharice Davids: Yeah, thank you, I'm looking forward to meeting you in person.

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