Navajo woman, lifelong Lawrencian files to run for Kansas Legislature
photo by: Contributed/Christina Haswood
Updated at 2:51 p.m. Wednesday, May 27
A third Democrat has filed to run for the seat left vacant by former Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence, in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Christina Haswood, 26, would become the youngest member of the Legislature, and the second current Native American and only the third in the body’s history, if elected.
Though she only filed and announced her candidacy on Friday, Haswood has already secured endorsements from Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda and Horn herself.
“I trust Christina to replace me in the state legislature representing District 10,” Horn is quoted as saying on Haswood’s campaign website. “I know she’ll work hard to represent her constituents, and will bring her public health knowledge to the statehouse at a critical time for Kansas.”
Haswood told the Journal-World she was somewhat intimidated when some local community members approached her about running for the seat after Horn announced she wouldn’t seek reelection.
After taking some time to consider, the lifelong Lawrence resident said she decided to use her expertise in public health — Haswood just graduated from the KU Medical Center with a master’s degree in public health management — to launch her candidacy.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to my Lawrence community,” she told the Journal-World Tuesday. “This opportunity just came at the right time, and I feel like I’m qualified to help lead my district and state.”
Growing up, Haswood and her family struggled with poverty. But, being a Native American woman and a minority, she said that experience helped open her eyes to the disparity of policy decisions and “how a zip code can determine your life expectancy.”
Haswood is a registered member of Navajo Nation and received her associate degree from Haskell Indian Nations University in community health. She later received a bachelor’s degree in public health from Arizona State University.
Haswood currently works as a research assistant with the National Council of Urban Indian Health and the Center for American Indian Community Health, where she studies tribal youth nicotine addiction and COVID-19’s effect on Native populations.
Due to Haswood’s work in the public health sector, one of Haswood’s main legislative priorities if elected would be expanding Kansas’ Medicaid program. If the state had passed Medicaid expansion when it was initially suggested in the Affordable Care Act, it could’ve added millions of dollars in state revenue and prevented rural hospitals from closing — not to mention the impact it would’ve had on managing the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Kansas lawmakers last week struck down a final attempt to pass Medicaid expansion during the 2020 legislative session and will next consider the issue in 2021.
“It’s pretty much what we learned about the last two years of medical school,” Haswood said. “I was just angry, being young, it’s like, ‘Why are you guys doing this?'”
Haswood will face two other Democratic challengers in the Aug. 4 primary: Brandon Holland, the son of Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and A.J. Stevens, a former Baldwin City Council member.
Tom Holland is the only other Lawrence-area representative currently facing a challenger in the 2020 election. Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, filed to run against Holland in August.
Sen. Marci Francisco, as well as Rep. Barbara Ballard, Rep. Boog Highberger and Rep. Mike Amyx — all Lawrence Democrats — have filed for reelection and are currently running unopposed.
The deadline to file for candidacy in the 2020 election is June 1.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that a Douglas County commissioner did not endorse Haswood.