There is a lot of attention paid to Native American candidates running for Congress or many other visible political offices. But There are also elected offices that we don’t think about, yet are critical, and by definition, a that seat at the table. Claudia Kauffman is running for such a job, Commissioner for the Port of Seattle. This is a $650 million a year, public business that manages Seattle’s seaport, airport, and a portfolio of real estate.
It’s such a simple thing: Every citizen should have a voice at the table when decisions are made. It’s a powerful notion because no democracy can sustain itself unless all of its people, all of those who have a stake in the outcome, are included.
But that idea remains illusive. And never more important.
This is Trahant Reports
So what does a seat at the table look like? It means more Native Americans elected as governors, members of Congress, U.S. Senators, mayors, county executives, judges, members of state legislatures, and, yes, why not, even the presidency. Indian Country deserves more of a voice, both in terms of fairness and electing representatives based on our share of the population. Wait. That’s fairness, too.
There are elected offices that we don’t think about, yet are critical, and by definition, are that seat at the table.
Claudia Kauffman is running for such a job, Commissioner for the Port of Seattle. This is a $650 million a year, public business that manages Seattle’s seaport, airport, and a portfolio of real estate.
Tribes and native people are impacted by port decisions ranging from cleaning up rivers and salmon habitat to regulating oil drilling rigs that berth in Seattle on their way to Arctic waters.
Kauffman is Nez Perce. She is the first Native American woman who was elected to the Washington state Senate a decade ago. She also works for the Muckleshoot Tribe as the Intergovernmental Affairs Director. One of her tasks is distributing $1.3 million a year to more than 200 local schools, churches and not-for-profit organizations. She’s also been a trustee at The Evergreen State College.
Kauffman grew up in Seattle’s Beacon Hill as the youngest of seven children. “I come from a family with a long history of giving back to the community,” Kauffman says on her web site.
A couple of years ago Kauffman told the port commission that it could use her perspective as a working mother, a small business owner, and a community leader.
In her campaign brochure, Kauffman said she will build on her tribal contacts and strengthen ties with the 29 tribes in Washington state. Tribes “are large employers,” she said. “In 2010, they paid $1.3 billion in wages and purchased $2.4 billion in goods and services.”
This will be a challenging race. But Kauffman is no stranger to that world. She raised nearly $300,000 in her bid for the Senate. She was one of those candidates who knocked on every door at every opportunity. She also has a political organization — a network of people willing to work extraordinarily hard so that she can win her election.
This is what a seat at the table looks like. I am Mark Trahant.