Rep. Kevin Yoder wants you to know he has a Democratic friend. And he’s reminding voters over and over.
Yoder, struggling to hold onto his Kansas City area seat, has been touting his relationship with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, a prominent former Kansas City mayor and African American congressman, in the campaign’s closing days.
Cleaver and Yoder have been allies in the Congressional Civility Caucus, and have long worked together to help their contiguous districts.
But using Cleaver as a campaign aid is clearly annoying to him and his fellow Democrats.
Yoder, a Republican, mentioned his ties to Cleaver twice Tuesday during a debate with Democrat Sharice Davids, who’s leading Yoder in the race for Kansas’ Third Congressional District seat.
“My friend Emanuel Cleaver and I work together to jointly lead the Congressional Civility Caucus, where we try to get Republicans and Democrats to work together to solve problems,” Yoder said during his response to the first question of the debate, which was about the current rancorous political environment.
And during his closing statement: “I’m reaching across the aisle, working with my colleague Emanuel Cleaver to co-chair the Civility Caucus.”
Yoder also used a quick image of Cleaver in a recent attack ad targeting Davids. That took the Missouri Democrat by surprise.
“I had no prior knowledge that the ad would be running,” Cleaver said. “I gave no permission that my image could be used. … I do understand that legally I have no claim over that image.”
The ad, titled “The Choice is Yours,” portrays Yoder as a “bipartisan leader who gets results” and blasts Davids as a socialist who will “bankrupt America.” It includes a brief clip of Yoder appearing on a local news show in 2017 with Cleaver.
The clip is only a second long, but Cleaver said it got him in trouble with his allies.
“A lot of Democrats, including the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and the Democratic caucus leadership, did begin to call me and say, ‘Hey what’s going on,’” Cleaver said. “...They were upset.”
Cleaver said he told Davids and other Democrats that he had no idea the ad would be running.
“The people in the DCCC knew about it before I did,” he said.
The DCCC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Cleaver said Yoder told him at an event after the ad ran that he had sent Cleaver a text to give him a heads-up. Cleaver said he didn’t see the text.
The duo has appeared at numerous events together over the years, including a Kansas City Royals vs. Baltimore Orioles game this year where they wore “Cleaver-Yoder” T-shirts that said “Bringing America Together.”
Democrats have used Republicans to portray themselves as friendly as well.
Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, locked in a tight race with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley for the Missouri Senate seat, used a positive quote from Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas in a campaign ad portraying her as eager to work with both parties.
Roberts then demanded that she remove the ad.
“Claire has always been fairly partisan, to say the least,” Roberts told The Kansas Star at the time.