Potential GOP recruit for Davids’ seat chairs the panel in charge of redistricting

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Bryan Lowry
·4 min read
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A potential Republican recruit to oppose Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids chairs the Kansas House committee that will redraw the boundaries of her district for the 2022 election.

State Rep. Chris Croft, an Overland Park Republican, met with National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chairman Tom Emmer last month about his potential entry into race for the Kansas 3rd Congressional District.

“It was a good conversation just to get to know each other, learn a bit about the organization and them learn about me,” Croft said.

A retired Army colonel, Croft is one of many military veterans reportedly being courted by the NRCC to run in 2022.

Croft said he was strongly considering a run and took a veiled shot at former Kansas Republican chair Amanda Adkins, Davids’ 2020 opponent, who announced last week that she would try again.

“I’ve had a lot of people approach me, ask me if I’ll get involved. They’ve expressed concerns like, ‘Have we already seen the ending of this?’” Croft said, likely referring to Adkins’ 10-point defeat in November.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination in 2022 will be facing Davids in a more competitive district.

The Republican supermajority in the Kansas Legislature will redraw the state’s congressional map after it receives 2020 Census data later this year.

GOP leaders have been open about their desire to oust Davids by gerrymandering the 3rd District lines, creating a more Republican-friendly electorate. That would likely require severing Democratic-leaning Wyandotte County from the district, which also includes Johnson and part of Miami counties.

And Croft, chairman of the Kansas House Redistricting Committee, will be at the center of the politically fraught process — if he stays in the job.

“It’s a decision for the speaker,” Croft said when asked if he would have to give up his chairmanship for a congressional run.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said when Croft was appointed chairman, legislative leaders did not know about his potential interest in the 3rd District seat.

He said if Croft does become a candidate for Congress, legislative leaders would meet with him on whether he should continue as chair. The Census Bureau will send states the data for redistricting by the end of September.

But Democrats have already seized on the potential conflict of interest as Croft contemplates a run.

“If state Rep. Chris Croft is even thinking about challenging Congresswoman Davids then he needs to resign as chair of Kansas’ redistricting committee immediately,” said Molly Mitchell, spokeswoman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to oversee Democrats’ redistricting strategy.

“Otherwise, Croft has an insurmountable conflict of interest — you can’t lead the process of drawing maps on a district that you’re also contemplating running in. Not resigning would be the most egregious example of a politician trying to handpick his voters instead of letting the people of Kansas choose their representatives.”

For his part, Croft said he has no doubt about his ability to handle the redistricting process fairly, regardless of whether he becomes a candidate.

“My military experience has taught me a lot about how to separate things. You have a mission,” Croft said.

He also noted that every member of the Kansas Legislature will be voting on state legislative maps for their own districts.

“There’s not a single person in the (Kansas) House that’s not going to be affected by it,” he said.

Adkins’ campaign did not directly comment on whether Croft should remain chairman of the committee, but Adkins’ spokeswoman Jessica Flanagain argued her candidate would be competitive against Davids in 2022.

“Amanda over-performed the top of the ticket in Johnson County and is a strong fundraiser. Amanda is the right fit for the district, the right leader for the issues, and 2022 will be the right cycle,” Flanagain said in an email.

Davids won Johnson County by 6 percentage points in 2020, a slightly smaller margin than President Joe Biden’s 7-point victory in the county. The president’s party traditionally loses seats in the midterm election.

The seat in the Kansas City suburbs will be a top priority for both parties in 2022 as Democrats look to protect their narrow majority after Republicans made gains in the last election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement Davids will retain her seat regardless of the GOP nominee “because she’s focused on the issues they care about, like creating an economic recovery that works for everyone.”

Both parties are likely to spend heavily on the race.

Davids’ campaign announced Wednesday that the Democrat raised $540,000 during the first three months of 2021 and will report more than $775,000 cash on hand as she gears up for the reelection fight.