New Ad For Democratic Candidate Tests A Populist Message In Suburban Kansas

Brent Welder is a progressive labor attorney running in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.
Brent Welder is one of the Democratic candidates vying for the chance to unseat Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), considered one of
Brent Welder is one of the Democratic candidates vying for the chance to unseat Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is funding an advertisement in support of Brent Welder, a progressive lawyer seeking the Democratic nomination in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

The minute-long video, which consists almost entirely of a passionate segment from one of Welder’s speeches, banks on voters’ appetites for unabashed economic populism. Through its super PAC, the PCCC has purchased $30,000 worth of airtime to play the spot on the local morning and evening news in the Kansas City media market, starting Thursday.

“The wealthiest of the wealthy take a tiny sliver of those enormous profits that they steal from us and use it to pay off politicians to keep it rigged in their favor,” Welder tells supporters at a July 20 rally featured in the video. “We gather here tonight to say, ‘Enough is enough!’”

Welder, a union-side labor attorney and former campaign official for both Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is in a close contest for the Democratic nomination in a district that includes Kansas City and many of its most affluent suburbs. The primary is next Tuesday.

Welder delivered the speech on which the ad is based at a massive campaign rally in Kansas City where Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee in New York’s 14th Congressional District, spoke in support of his candidacy.

Although there are six Democratic candidates, poll watchers believe the primary is effectively a three-way race. Welder’s top competitors are Tom Niermann, a centrist, private-school history teacher, and Sharice Davids, an EMILY’S List-backed attorney. Davids is more liberal than Niermann, but unlike Welder, is not running on Medicare for all and some other progressive priorities. (Davids told The Intercept that she would vote for a Medicare-for-all bill if it came up for a vote, but that she is focusing on interim steps given how difficult it will be to achieve in the near term.) She is running heavily on her personal story as a Native American lesbian and amateur MMA fighter, raised by a single Army veteran mom.

The Democrats are vying for the chance to unseat Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), who is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress. Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump among the district’s voters by 1 percentage point; national Democrats put Trump’s approval rating there at about 35 percent.

The suburb-heavy district is not necessarily fertile ground for a Sanders-style, class war battle cry. Local Democratic officials, who are mostly backing Niermann, see moderation as the surest ticket to a general-election win.

But national progressives stumping for Welder can’t pass up the opportunity to show that left-wing populism is a political winner across the country ― even in a well-to-do swing seat in deep-red Kansas.

Following Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez’s rally for Welder in the district, the PCCC’s ad attempts to give Welder still more populist momentum.

And while Welder, like Ocasio-Cortez, is an alumnus of Sanders’ 2016 presidential run, the PCCC most closely associates itself with that other progressive tribune: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“Brent Welder is the type of Elizabeth Warren-style, bold progressive that excites voters in red, purple, and blue districts,” PCCC co-founder Adam Green said of the group’s ad. “His message of challenging corporate power over our political system and bold ideas like Medicare For All is exactly what will maximize a Democratic wave in 2018.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Sharice Davids as an Army veteran. Her mother served in the Army. It also incorrectly claimed that Davids does not support Medicare for all. She has said she would vote for it if it came up.