This August there are eight Native American candidates for the U.S. House and Senate. But that number is likely to shrink when the month comes to a close. This is Trahant Reports.
Four Native candidates are on ballots this month: Democrats Edgar Blatchford, Yupik, in Alaska, Joe Pakootas, Colville, in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, Victoria Steele, Seneca, in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District; and, Republican Shawn Redd, Navajo, in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District.
The first of these primary elections was August 2 in Washington state. And, even though it’s hard to read too much into a primary, Joe Pakootas did really well. The race shows that his opponent, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is more vulnerable than ever.
McMorris Rodgers and Pakootas finished first and second and will go on to the general election in November. Washington has what’s called “a blanket primary.” That means voters pick from all candidates on the ballot. It doesn’t matter which party they represent.
So in that primary, McMorris Rodgers was first with 56,676 votes while Pakootas earned 42,600. What’s interesting about that is that McMorris Rodgers did not earn a majority of the vote, the first time that’s happened since she has been an incumbent.
Right now: The incumbent has a huge advantage, she’s raised some $2.4 million to Pakootas’ $166,729. But even with that margin Pakootas showed in the primary that he can be competitive.
Like a lot of Republicans, McMorris Rodgers has to deal with the Trump problem. How far do candidates go defending their nominee? McMorris Rodgers may be all in. According to The Spokesman-Review newspaper she called for party unity saying it was necessary to defeat a “motivated” Democratic Party.
Pakootas is a former chairman of the Colville Tribes. He told his supporters via Facebook: “Thank you 5th Congressional District for your support! I am pleased to announce I am moving onto the General Election!”
One note of caution: It’s hard to read too much into a primary because the number of voters are so few. Less than 92,000 people cast ballots in that primary compared to 232,242 in the last general election. Turnout was even smaller than the primary two years ago.
The next primary is in Alaska on Aug. 16 where Edgar Blatchford is running for the U.S. Senate against two other Democrats. Unlike Washington, Alaska has a party-based primary. So voters will pick candidates to represent Democrats, Republicans, and in this case, a Libertarian, and an independent. So Alaska will have four candidates on the November ballot. That is quite a crowd. I am Mark Trahant reporting.
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