Courtesy of Sharice Davids

Sharice Davids J.D. ’10 became the first Native American women elected to Congress last night.

March 8, 2018

Cornell Law Alumna Runs for Congress, Seeks to Be First Female Native American Representative

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Sharice Davids J.D. ’10 is hoping to make history on election night.

Running for Congress in Kansas’ third district, if elected, Davids would be the first female Native American representative in Congress and the first openly gay representative from Kansas.

“I didn’t realize that there hadn’t been a Native women in Congress,” Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Native American tribe in Wisconsin, said. “I was kind of blown away by that, actually.”

“I mean, it’s 2018,” Davids added. “We’re still having firsts?”

While the historic nature of her electoral victory did not factor into Davids’ decision-making, she did acknowledge the historical significance of her campaign.

Davids announced her campaign on Feb. 15, entering a packed field of six other Democratic candidates with no clear frontrunner. The winner of the Democratic primary will face incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) in November.

Andrea Ramsey, who had appeared to be the frontrunner, ended her campaign in December 2017 after the Kansas City Star questioned her on a 2005 lawsuit in which a male subordinate accused her of sexually harassing and then firing him.

“I felt there was a void after [Ramsey] left,” she said, referencing the lack of women in the race following Ramsey’s departure. “I looked at the field of candidates and thought I have the skill set and the qualifications to do this job and I think I bring a unique and interesting experience to the race.”

“To be frank,” Davids said, “I think we should have a woman in every single race.”

While law school can seem daunting to many, Davids said her time at Cornell was when she “hit [her] stride in life.”

In fact, Davids met her campaign finance director in law school.

“I loved my time at the law school, I felt like I really grew, not just academically and professionally, but just meeting people who had different perspectives,” she said.

As for her platform, Davids is focused on gun safety, health care reform, immigration reform and public education. While she hopes Congress will act on some of these issues before the next session, she said that she didn’t “have a strong reason to believe” that action would be taken.

“There are all kinds of [policies] that just don’t make sense and we haven’t seen any action on them,” she said.

Davids, who was a white house fellow in the final year of the Obama Administration, graduated from Johnson County Community College and later the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Davids, who was last in Ithaca for her reunion weekend, will be returning to Cornell on March 23 to speak to the Women’s Law Coalition on the importance of women “supporting each other.” The next day, she will speak at the Tribal Economic Summit on how to “[navigate] tribal issues in the new administration.”

“I bring a new perspective that was missing in this race. That is missing in Congress and throughout all levels of our government,” Davids said. “I don’t just speak for women, for working-class families, and for minorities. I speak as a woman, as a member of the working class, and as a minority.”