In 2006 Nancy Boyda defeated a five-term incumbent to win election to the United States House of Representatives from a district in eastern Kansas. During her single term in Congress, Boyda received two powerful committee assignments—allowing her to tend to her district’s military presence and agricultural interests.
Nancy Boyda was born on August 2, 1955, in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated in 1977 from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and education. She worked for more than two decades in pharmaceutical research, first as an inspector for the Environmental Protection Agency, and later as a manager in the research departments for several pharmaceutical companies. She also taught grade school. Boyda is married to Steve Boyda, a Marine veteran and former Marshall County (Kansas) attorney. She has two children, Ben and Leah, from a previous marriage, and five stepchildren.1
Boyda, a lifelong Republican, became a Democrat in 2003, arguing that the GOP had become “the voice of big, big, big business.” Nevertheless, she once told The Hill newspaper she held many of the same values as her old party: “You won’t find much difference between me and a moderate Republican.”2 Boyda made her first run for elective office in 2004 when she challenged four-term incumbent Republican Representative Jim Ryun. The district encompassed almost all of eastern Kansas running from the northern border with Nebraska down to Oklahoma. Reapportionment in the early 1990s created the district—which merged traditionally Republican counties in the southeast corner of the state, with counties in the northeast that had begun voting for moderate Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s. Boyda lost her initial matchup to Ryun by 15 percent. She challenged him again in 2006, and mounted a grassroots effort that involved intense personal campaigning, local radio and newspaper ads, and a barrage of yard signs that read, “Had Enough?”3 In an election in which Republicans lost majority control in the House for the first time in 12 years, Boyda defeated Ryun, 51 to 47 percent, with a third-party candidate taking the remainder of the vote.4
Arriving at the Capitol, Boyda was assigned to prime committee appointments: Agriculture and Armed Services. From her seat on the Agriculture Committee, Boyda had the opportunity to address the district’s agricultural interests—ranging from corn, soybean, and wheat production to raising cattle. On Armed Services, she served on the Military Personnel Subcommittee, allowing her to look out for the district’s military installations—Fort Riley (headquarters of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division), Fort Leavenworth, and Forbes Field.
Boyda introduced the Congressional Pension Accountability Act in the opening days of the 110th Congress (2007–2009). The legislation would have denied federal pensions to Members who were convicted of criminal actions committed while they served in Congress. It passed the House by a wide margin as part of the new Democratic majority’s accountability and reform program but died in the Senate. “Corrupt politicians deserve prison sentences,” Boyda declared on the House Floor, “not taxpayer-funded pensions.” Boyda’s initiative was later incorporated into the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which passed both chambers and became law in September 2007.5
Boyda advocated continued funding for U.S. troops in Iraq while demanding a clear strategy from the George W. Bush administration to end the war. She also sought full congressional funding for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s efforts to restructure the U.S. military—an undertaking that she claimed previous Congresses failed to support adequately. From her Armed Services seat, Boyda also steered millions of dollars for improvements to Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley.6
In the 2008 general election, Boyda faced Kansas state treasurer Lynn Jenkins who had defeated former Representative Ryun in the GOP primary. Jenkins defeated Boyda, 51 to 46 percent.7
After leaving the House, Boyda joined President Barack Obama’s administration as the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for manpower and personnel issues in 2009. When Kansas Senator Charles Patrick (Pat) Roberts announced his retirement, Boyda considered running for the open seat. But in October 2019, she announced that she would not be a candidate.8
1Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2007): 404; “Biography for Congresswoman Nancy Boyda,” official website of Representative Nancy Boyda, 1 January 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20090101090141/http://boyda.house.gov/?sectionid=48§iontree=6,48.
2Patrick O’Connor, “Republican–cum–Democrat Taking on Ryun in Kansas,” 24 June 2004, The Hill: 14.
3Politics in America, 2008: 404.
4Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”
5Congressional Record, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (22 January 2007): H810.
6Congressional Record, Extensions of Remarks, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (15 March 2007): E560; Congressional Record, Extensions of Remarks, 110th Cong, 1st sess. (21 March 2007): E605; “Nancy Boyda,” 6 November 2008, Associated Press.
7“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”
8Tim Carpenter, “Boyda Sworn in at Pentagon,” 20 July 2009, Topeka Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com/article/20090720/NEWS/307209779; “Boyda Drops out of 2020 Senate Race,” 10 October 2019, Associated Press.