A Johnson County resident hopes to be first Native American woman elected to Congress if she can win the Democratic primary to take on U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder in the fall.

Sharice Davids, a 37-year-old Shawnee attorney and member of the Ho-Chunk nation, served as a White House fellow during the final year of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Davids, who grew up in Leavenworth and holds a degree from Cornell Law School, spent time working as a legal counsel for a development corporation on a reservation in South Dakota before her stint at the White House.

Her campaign announcement noted that if elected she would be the first female Native American to serve in Congress and the first openly twospirit member of the Kansas delegation.

“Until it got pointed out to me it wasn’t necessarily part of my thinking, but the gravity of it really hit me recently,” Davids said. “It’s amazing how long we’ve been in a country, but we’re still having firsts.”

She said her mother became teary-eyed upon finding out she could be the first Native American woman representative.

“It wasn’t part of my decision. … but I’m definitely proud to be part of this time in history. I think there will be a lot of historical things happening in the 2018,” she said.

If she wins, Davids could potentially share the distinction with Democrat Debra Haaland, a Native American woman who is running for a congressional seat in New Mexico.

Davids said that conversations on health care policy need to start with the belief that health care is a human right. But while she supports a single payer system in concept, she said that smaller improvements to health care access are more realistic policy goals right now with President Donald Trump in office.

Her time as a White House fellow included the months when Trump first took office. She worked at the U.S. Department of Transportation during the transitional period.

In addition to her political and legal experience, Davids has a history of competing in mixed martial arts tournaments.

“I grew up obsessed with Bruce Lee,” she said. Her family couldn’t afford lessons when she was a kid, but she pursued the hobby as an adult and entered her first tournament at age 26.

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