Tribal governments, enterprises, and political operatives from indigenous communities across the United States and Canada are encouraging Sharice Davids, a Democrat representing Kansas’ third congressional district, to run for Speaker of the House of Representatives following Nancy Pelosi‘s planned retirement at the end of the current Congress.
She would be the first Native American to be elected Speaker and dozens of Tribes have been looking to cultivate political champions in Washington, DC in recent years.
Pelosi has made commitments to her colleagues to step aside at the end of the current term, but some in her caucus have asked her to step aside well ahead of next year’s mid-term elections — which might give the party an opportunity to rebrand its House caucus.
Democrats are expecting sweeping losses in the House, and it’s thought that former President Donald J. Trump is seriously considering a run for the House from Florida. The House Republican caucus would be likely to elect him Speaker of the House if they regain control of the chamber.
It’s been long thought that James Clyburn, of South Carolina, Pelosi’s closest deputy in Congress, would be her successor. But given their close relationship, many in the caucus believe it would be more difficult to rebrand the caucus ahead of midterms if “a Pelosi operative” is selected. They prefer a clean break from Pelosi and her most senior confidants.
Clyburn’s candidacy for the Speakership brings other problems for party unity. His centrist political views and conservative rural constituency worry the progressive flank of the caucus.
Davids represents a suburban swing district outside of Kansas City, which she won soundly in the last general election. That ‘heartland’ appeal could help the party rebrand ahead of national elections, with the aim of making Democrats in swing districts across the country more competitive and less burdened by Pelosi’s unpopularity.
At age 41, she would represent a remarkable generational passing of the torch, given that Pelosi is nearly 82 years old. She would not, however, be the youngest person to serve in that role. Robert M. T. Hunter became Speaker in 1839 at age 30.
Davids would also be the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as Speaker, and the first professional Mixed Martial Arts competitor to serve in the role as well.
Davids was born to a military family on May 22, 1980, in Frankfurt, West Germany. She is a member of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people, and an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin.
Her maternal grandfather, Fredrick J. Davids, a United States Army veteran, was born into the Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee Band, in Oneida, Wisconsin. Sharice was raised by her mother, Crystal Herriage, a single mother who served in the U.S. Army.
Davids earned her Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 2010.
Davids began her legal career at SNR Denton in 2010. She later directed community and economic development for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation before being elected to the House in 2018. That year, she was one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress.
At least two Tribes are planning to spend several hundred thousand dollars to lobby the caucus around her candidacy and the National Congress of Americans Indians is expected to discuss and endorse her candidacy at their next convergence.