Sharice Davids is running for her fourth term in Congress. Is she vulnerable?

When Rep. Sharice Davids walked up to the lectern at her victory party in a ballroom at the Sheraton Overland Park Convention Center on election night two years ago, her speech was defiant.

In a year where prognosticators had claimed President Joe Biden’s unpopularity would help steer Republicans into office, in a newly drawn congressional district that added Republican voters, Davids had gone on to expand her margin of victory from the 2020 presidential election.

“We have been facing challenge after challenge over these last few years but we have met every one of those challenges head on,” Davids told the crowd.

Now, as Davids officially filed to run for a fourth term this week, she’s being challenged again.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting her seat. The Congressional Leadership Fund has named one of her opponents – physician Prasanth Reddy – a “trailblazer” this election cycle. And a political action committee associated with House Speaker Mike Johnson is pumping money into Reddy’s campaign.

“National Republicans have made clear this seat is one of their top targets in November,” said Zac Donley, a spokesman for Davids’ campaign. “But our focus remains turning out voters in every corner of the Kansas Third to reject extremism and protect reproductive freedoms.”

Davids has won each of her House races by a slightly larger margin than the last – propelled by voters in Johnson County who have increasingly voted for Democratic candidates. This election cycle, where two unpopular presidential candidates top the ticket, could potentially cement the 3rd District as a safe Democratic seat.

But Republicans point to a variety of factors – new candidates, Biden’s unpopularity, and a focus on immigration and the economy – as evidence that Davids could be at risk.

“You don’t want to rule it out,” said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at Kent State University. “If they had someone who was like, a really known, reasonably popular local office holder, and had a really moderate image, that might be a start. But that’s not really the set of candidates they’re dealing with.”

The 3rd District has seesawed between Republicans and Democrats over the past 20 years. Former Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat, held the seat through the early 2000s before losing to former Rep. Kevin Yoder as Republicans swept into office as part of the Tea Party wave. Yoder lost his seat to Davids in 2018, as Democrats took control of the House in a backlash to former President Donald Trump.

Republicans are counting on a backlash against Biden, who has been struggling in the polls. Both Republican candidates said they feel two of the top issues in the race – immigration and the economy – lean in their favor.

“Kansans are focused on the issues that impact our lives – a wide open southern border, devastating inflation, and the safety of our communities,” Reddy said. “That’s what our campaign is focused on, and those are the issues Sharice Davids has ignored on her watch.”

But immigration and the economy were both top issues for Republicans in 2022, when Davids won by 12 percentage points in an election year where Democrats were widely expected to lose several seats in the House.

“[Davids] prevailed in what could have been a pretty close race: a bunch of new voters, less friendly district, Biden midterm,” Miller said. “Now she’ll have a presidential race where things tend to be a lot more tied to the presidential race. We know the district leans blue. I think the question is for this district, because it’s a district that has changed a lot lately, is it going to continue to get bluer?”

In that race Davids repeatedly hit on two issues – abortion rights and the Republican candidate’s ties to former Gov. Sam Brownback.

The election came six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal abortion rights and three months after Kansans voted down the “Value them Both” amendment, which would have eliminated abortion rights from the Kansas constitution.

Two years later, Karen Crnkovich, a small business owner running for the Republican nomination, said she believed abortion rights were less of a focus in Kansas, where the procedure has remained legal.

“We’re two years past Value Them Both,” Crnkovich said. “And at the end of the day, Kansas has, it’s still in the Constitution, the right to have an abortion. And so I think it’s less of a talking point, more and more.”

For the past two cycles, Davids campaigned against the same candidate – former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman Amanda Adkins.

Davids’ campaign frequently tied Adkins to Brownback, who was controversial during his tenure as governor. This time, that line of attack won’t work. Neither Reddy nor Crnkovich have direct ties to the Brownback administration.

Instead, Davids and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have tried to tie the frontrunner, Reddy, to the views of prominent House Republicans that have endorsed him – particularly House Speaker Mike Johnson’s staunch opposition to abortion rights.

But while Johnson has quickly become a prominent Republican, he still doesn’t attract the same attention as the Republican at the top of the ticket this year – Trump.

The 3rd District voted for Trump in 2016, then went for Biden by about 5 percentage points in 2020. While Trump and Biden have been neck and neck in several early polls, it’s unclear whether the dynamic has shifted in suburban areas that compose much of the district.

“If this had shifted into an environment where like Biden or Trump seems to really, really have a clear advantage, we might be talking about some down ballot dynamics, maybe,” Miller said. “That’s not the case here.”