Davids, Adkins trade shots in debate for U.S. House seat in Kansas

MISSION — Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and Republican challenger Amanda Adkins on Monday sought to portray each other as too extreme to represent a heavily suburban Kansas City-area swing district as they debated how to respond to the coronavirus and calls for police reform.

Davids repeatedly tried linking Adkins to former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, while Adkins attempted to connect Davids to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the hourlong debate that was put on by “4Star Politics,” a joint effort of The Kansas City Star and WDAF-TV.

Adkins, a former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman, worked as the chairwoman of the Children’s Cabinet in the administration of Brownback, who was unpopular when he left office early in 2018 for an ambassador’s post. Brownback had championed a nationally notorious tax-cutting experiment that created persistent budget problems.

Adkins, a former executive for the medical computer systems firm Cerner Corp., said Davids voted with Pelosi more than 90% of the time and accused Pelosi of getting in the way of another round of coronavirus relief.

“The Democratic leaders here in this region have really been part of a shutdown culture,” Adkins said. “They have shut down our businesses, our economy and our schools, and I think we need a very different leadership. Our businesses in particular have just been devastated.”

Davids contended that a healthy economy requires healthy people, adding that Republicans such as President Donald Trump have been flouting health guidelines on masks. She said slowing down the virus is “one way we can help get our economy back up and going.”

Davids unseated four-term GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in 2018, gaining national attention as the nation’s first Native American and openly LGBTQ candidate. The district’s voter registration leans Republican, but Davids has benefited from the dissatisfaction of suburban voters with Trump.

Davids said the country is having a long-overdue discussion about racial justice. She said that while she supports providing resources for police equipment and training, she also believes there should be “accountability and transparency.” She said she supported the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which would ban police use of stranglehold maneuvers and end qualified immunity for officers, among other reforms.

Adkins has attended pro-police “Back the Blue” events and signed a pledge never to defund police, a term its supporters use to describe shifting money from law enforcement agencies to other efforts. Adkins said she believes there should be grants for body cameras and use-of-force tracking.

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