TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Update 9:25 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018
Democrat Sharice Davids told jubilant supporters that she is honored to be chosen to represent people who have often not had their voices heard by the federal government.
Davids, an openly gay, Native American woman, defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder Tuesday in the race in Kansas' 3rd District.
She said her life story of being raised by a single mother, being a first-generation college student and working while she was in school is not that unusual.
"What is uncommon, until now, is to have those voices and those stories and those experiences truly reflected in our federal government, in Congress and the Senate," she said.
Davids said Yoder had called to congratulate her and she thanked him for his years of service to the people of Kansas.
Republicans are trying to hold on to an eastern Kansas congressional seat Tuesday with a little-known candidate who spent most of his adult life outside the state and was caught embellishing his credentials.
The district represented by retiring GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins leans Republican and President Donald Trump carried it by nearly 17 percentage points two years ago. Republican Steve Watkins emerged from a bruising seven-person primary that saw one opponent label him a "fraud" and some local leaders question his commitment to the party.
Democratic nominee Paul Davis, a former Kansas House minority leader and Lawrence attorney, carried the district in an unsuccessful run for governor in 2014 and raised $3.6 million for his congressional race.
Davis pitched himself to voters as a commonsense centrist who worked with Republicans during his legislative career. He started his campaign by promising that he wouldn't support Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for House speaker if Democrats recapture a majority.
He also stressed health care issues, promising to fight to keep prescription drug prices in check and protect health coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
None of those stances prevented Republicans, including Watkins, from attacking Davis as a Pelosi liberal.
Watkins himself emerged as an issue despite his attractive profile as a political outsider and a West Point graduate who served in Afghanistan and then worked there, in Iraq and in Central Asia as a government contractor. He's run the famed Iditarod dog sled race twice in Alaska and attempted to scale Mount Everest in 2015.
But he was caught exaggerating his role in a small business in the Middle East and removed a quote about his "heroic leadership" during the Mount Everest expedition attributed to his guide, after the guide told The Associated Press that he'd never said it.
Even before, Republican critics noted that the Topeka native had spent most of his adult life living outside Kansas and had not voted in the state until a municipal election in November 2017, after he'd decided to run for Congress.
Also, Watkins' father, a Topeka physician, was heavily involved in the race as the almost-exclusive source of funding for a political action committee, Kansans Can Do Anything, boosting his son's candidacy. The elder Watkins contributed more than $765,000 to the PAC.
One former GOP foe, ex-state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, called him "a charlatan, a fraud and an opportunist," days before the August primary, though he later wouldn't criticize Watkins. Some GOP leaders also were wary of him after three Democrats said publicly that he met with them last year about running as a Democrat - something he strongly disputed.
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