Immigration Tricky Issue in Tight Kansas Congressional Race

TOPEKA, Kan. — Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder and his Democratic challenger are having a hard time keeping their political footing on immigration issues, complicating their efforts to win a competitive swing House district in Kansas that President Donald Trump narrowly lost.

Yoder is under pressure from the right despite an endorsement from Trump, and he backed away this week from supporting a Democratic proposal to ensure that immigrants fleeing domestic and gang violence can claim asylum.

Democrat Sharice Davids continues to battle GOP ads that say she supports abolishing ICE. She did say that during a liberal podcast interview in July but has disavowed that position, including in a recent television ad.

“The sweet spot is so hard to find, even in the best of times,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice, a frequent Trump critic. “The Sharice Davids-Yoder race is kind of a microcosm.”

Davids and Yoder are running in a Kansas City-area district that has fast-growing, conservative suburbs; older, centrist suburbs, and diverse, heavily Democratic city neighborhoods. More than 81 percent of its residents are white; 11.7 percent are Hispanic, and 8.6 percent are black. Democrat Hillary Clinton’s margin in the 2016 presidential race was 1.2 percentage points.

Davids is generating national attention because of her unusual profile as an LGBT and Native American lawyer and mixed martial arts fighter. Yoder, seeking his fifth term, became chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security in May, boosting his visibility on immigration issues and role in funding decisions.

Yoder received Trump’s tweeted endorsement in July after House Republicans unveiled legislation including money for Trump’s wall on the Mexican border.

On the left, Yoder already was considered a solid Trump ally. Weeks before, several hundred pro-immigrant demonstrators had rallied outside a district office and local officials had pressured him to demand the end of the Trump administration’s soon-to-be dropped policy of separating parents and children when families tried to cross the Mexico border illegally.

By JOHN HANNA for STAR TRIBUNE
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