Sharice Davids is about to enter the ring.
The lesbian attorney and former MMA fighter made history on Tuesday night by prevailing in a tight six-way race in the Democratic primary for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District. Davids beat next closest challenger Brent Welder, who had the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by just over 2,000 votes.
The three-point margin separating the two candidates was so close that the race wasn’t called until 8am Wednesday morning.
If elected in November, Davids would become the first openly LGBTQ politician to represent the Sunflower State at either the state or federal level, as well as one of just a handful of Native American lawmakers to ever sit in U.S. Congress. The 38-year-old candidate is a member of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation.
In an email sent to supporters Wednesday, Davids celebrated her path toward history.
“When I started this campaign, a lot of people were worried,” she claimed. “A lot of people told me it was too late to get into this race. A lot of people told me I wouldn’t find support and that I couldn’t win.”
“But instead of listening to the worry and the doubt, I listened to you,” she said in the email. “You told me you needed someone who lives your struggles. You told me you needed someone who listens when you speak. You told me you needed someone who knows your experience. You told me to run. You told me to win. And, together, we made history last night.”
Repeating victory in the general election won’t be easy, though, in a deep red state like Kansas. Incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican, won the previous four elections by an average of 20 points. Yoder sailed to an easy victory in his Republican primary on Tuesday, beating opponents by more than 50 points.
Yoder has received strong backing from President Trump and Vice President Pence ahead of November. Trump tweeted his “full and total endorsement” for Yoder in July, while Pence fundraised in support of his reelection.
Democrats, however, believe there’s an opening for Davids amid the 2018 “blue wave” — in which liberal and progressive candidates have been overperforming in races across the country. Meanwhile, Davids occupies one of the few districts in the state Hillary Clinton took in 2016.
Although Republicans currently control all four Kansas seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, each is facing reelection this year. Supporters believe Davids is ready for the fight.
“This victory shows the fighting spirit Sharice brings to her campaign and the progressive issues she cares about — so Kevin Yoder should be worried,” claimed President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund Annise Parker in a statement. “While Sharice speaks about inclusion and representing all her constituents, Kevin is chumming it up with Mike Pence, embracing the divisive and unproductive agenda that dominates the White House and so much of Capitol Hill.”
“Sharice will break down barriers with a win in November and add a desperately needed perspective to the halls of Congress,” Parker continued. “She will become a historic first, but more importantly, she is determined to push forward positive solutions for Kansans and all Americans.”
“We couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of seeing another woman join Congress’ LGBTQ Caucus,” added Lucas Acosta, director of LGBTQ media for the Democratic National Committee, in a statement. “LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ women, have been running for office in record numbers, and Sharice’s historic candidacy has the potential to flip Kansas’ 3rd District from red to blue.”
“LGBTQ women of color deserve a voice in Congress, and Davids is one step closer to being one of those voices,” he said.