Republican leaders boost Johnson County doctor ahead of 2024 race against Sharice Davids

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Eight months before Kansas Republicans vote in the 2024 congressional primary, Prasanth Reddy is already consolidating national support for his campaign.

The Johnson County oncologist and former health executive is one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids in November. And he’s already been meeting with congressional leaders in Washington in attempts to establish himself as the strongest option in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, the state’s only seat held by a Democrat.

Last week, Reddy met with Republican congressional leaders in Washington including House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, according to a source close to the meeting.

“Of course there’s going to be some overlap in issues that I agree with national leadership on,” Reddy told The Star. “But they’ve also given me the flexibility to ensure that I feel comfortable with where I stand on the issues and why.”

Already, his efforts have resulted in an endorsement from Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and the chair of the House Republican Conference and he was singled out as a partner in Johnson’s “Grow The Majority” fundraising committee.

“This race is one of the top ten races in the country,” Stefanik said in a statement to The Star. We are helping draw national attention nationwide to join with Kansans to support Dr. Reddy’s campaign.”

Reddy is attempting to pick up even more support – he’s met with the Republican members of the Kansas delegation – to show his campaign’s strength entering the new year.

“It’s critically important that we continue to get that,” Reddy said.

Davids’ campaign was quick to criticize Reddy for seeking support from national Republicans.

“D.C. Republicans never fail to hand pick a candidate who will support their party’s extreme agenda,” said Mohona Chowdhury, a spokeswoman for Davids’ campaign, in a statement. “Prasanth Reddy has made his values clear by proudly aligning with National Republican leadership who co-sponsored a national abortion ban, sought to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, and supported slashing Social Security and Medicare.”

Reddy has run as a moderate, leaning on his background as an immigrant and physician to present himself as a political outsider eager to find solutions in Congress. He highlighted his efforts to make connections in the district, in addition to national leadership.

“I can bring a needed voice and willingness to listen,” Reddy said. “At the end of the day no one knows everything and this about having honest debates and making sure that we’re coming up with solutions that make sense.”

Reddy’s biography has been particularly attractive to national Republicans looking for the right candidate.

“Dr. Reddy’s story is one of perseverance and tenacity, which we need more of in Congress,” Stefanik said.

It is not unusual for Republican leaders to coalesce around a candidate in a primary election in order to align behind the candidate they believe is in the strongest position to win. But it doesn’t always work out.

In 2022, Republicans quickly coalesced behind Amanda Adkins, a former Cerner executive who had lost to Davids in 2020, and avoided a competitive primary. Despite new congressional boundaries drawn to be more Republican friendly, Adkins lost by a double digit margin.

Kansas Republicans employed the same strategy in the Kansas governor race in 2022, clearing the primary field for then-Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who narrowly lost to Gov. Laura Kelly.

“I think the basic logic is that if you have districts that are even remotely competitive, there is an interest within the party in making sure that you have a good, qualified candidate from the pool of candidates that are available,” said Patrick Miller, a political science professor at Kent State University.

Inside Elections, a publication which tracks congressional races, rated the district as “likely Democratic” in a Dec. 15 analysis of competitive races. Despite these predictions from analysts, the National Republican Congressional Committee has listed it as one of their top chances to flip a Democratic seat in 2024 when the party will attempt to protect its slim majority in the House.

Despite Republican efforts to make the district more conservative through redrawn boundaries, Kansas’ 3rd District is the type of suburban district that has increasingly voted for Democrats since the election of former President Donald Trump in 2016.

Davids was elected to office in 2018 at the height of the so-called “resistance” movement that sprung up after Trump’s election. Her 2022 victory was bolstered by abortion rights supporters, who have increasingly helped Democrats win competitive districts.

“Say what you want about the national political environment, what people think of Biden or Trump, but suburbia is still tough terrain right now for Republicans,” Miller said. “You know, we just had a lot of elections that gave us many more data points in that.”

The NRCC typically does not endorse candidates in a primary, but it has been aggressive in attempting to paint Davids as too partisan for the district.

“Sharice Davids is all hat and no cattle – failing to back up her moderate talk with reasonable votes,” said Delanie Bomar, a spokeswoman for the NRCC. “Because Davids continues siding with Democratic extremists instead of Kansans, Republicans are in prime position to flip this seat.”

But it has been nearly impossible for anyone to find bipartisan wins in a divided Congress this year with a GOP-controlled House consumed by infighting, including the historic expulsion of a House speaker.

When lawmakers have faced must-pass legislation, like compromises to keep the government running and the annual National Defense Authorization Act, a majority of House Republicans have voted against the agreements.

In 2023, only 22 measures became law, the lowest in the past 10 years. In 2022, when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, 284 measures became law.

The national support comes with fundraising and publicity opportunities. A spokesman for Stefanik told The Star the congresswoman would hold an event in Kansas for Reddy later in the cycle and had pledged campaign support.

Reddy insists the support does not mean he would be tied to the whims of leadership if he won office.

“The answer is never vote party-line,” Reddy said. “That’s part of the reason why there is dysfunction in congress.”

Rep. Ron Estes, a Kansas Republican who represents the Wichita area, is among the Republicans who has rejected some of the bipartisan deals. His campaign said he has met with Reddy but has not yet endorsed in Kansas’ 3rd District race.

“Sharice Davids is a puppet for the unpopular Biden agenda that has increased inflation by nearly 18%, and voters in the 3rd District of Kansas need better representation,” his campaign said.

Reddy has outraised his Republican opponents in the race so far and has $222,792 on hand, according to the Federal Elections Commission, compared to the $55,098 raised by Karen Crnkovich, who runs a Johnson County heating and cooling business, and the $64,452 raised by Jonathon Westbrook, a Kansas City, Kansas, police officer.

Crnkovich said she’s met with the Republican members of the Kansas delegation, but she’s more focused on talking with voters than seeking the support of House Speaker Johnson.

“Spending a lot of time in the District of Columbia rather than Kansas District 3 just proves that somebody’s business as usual, politics as usual and it’s not a meaningful step towards positive change, which is what I hear people are really longing for.”