TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The former leader of a national disability rights group on Monday became the first Republican candidate seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids in a heavily suburban swing district where the incumbent is facing heat from both the right and left.
Sara Hart Weir kicked off her campaign in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area with a video highlighting her work with the National Down Syndrome Society. She was the group’s president and CEO for more than four years before stepping down earlier this year to consider the congressional race.
The 37-year-old Weir touted her work in 2014 on bipartisan legislation that created savings accounts with tax advantages for the disabled and their families. She said in her video that she would “deliver conservative, compassionate solutions” on issues such as health care and find common ground.
“I’m fed up with the extreme, socialist agenda coming out of Washington,” she said.
Davids, 39, unseated four-term GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder last year, gaining national attention as both a Native American and openly LGBTQ candidate. The district’s voter registration leans Republican, but Davids benefited from suburban voters’ dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump, who endorsed Yoder.
Weir’s campaign immediately portrayed Davids as too liberal for the district, noting, for example, her vote for Nancy Pelosi as U.S. House speaker.
Yet Davids has faced criticism from liberals as well. She has stopped short of endorsing a “Medicare for All” health plan or a “Green New Deal,” and last week, The Kansas City Star reported that one of her offices was the site of a protest against her vote in favor of a border security bill.
Davids ended June with about $750,000 in her campaign account. Spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw said her “entire focus” is on serving the district, and, “That’s what will get her re-elected.”
Weir immediately faced criticism from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which launched a digital ad describing her as a “big pharma lobbyist,” referring to her past work with GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceuticals company. Weir said she worked for the company for eight months in her 20s, helping to expand veterans’ access to vaccines.
Weir also could face a GOP primary opponent. Amanda Adkins, a former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman and an executive with the medical computer systems firm Cerner Corp., has considered the race.