Across the country, across the wide channel that we call “politics,” this is an extraordinary year. There are more Native Americans running for a variety of offices than at any point in history.
Two years ago at this point, there were five candidates for Congress, a total of three Democrats and two Republicans. There were four candidates for statewide offices in two states, North Dakota and South Dakota.
And this year? There are 10 candidates for Congress. A dozen running for statewide offices, including three for governor and another five for lieutenant governor. It’s also interesting to note the party breakdown this time around: Four Democrats are running for Congress; four Republicans; one Green Party candidate; and one candidate representing the Independence Party of Minnesota.
There are 77 Native Americans running for state legislatures across the country. And in Montana there are 14 or 15 candidates for the state legislature (depending on a legal challenge by the Green Party.) There are at least a half dozen legislative candidates in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, South Dakota, and nine in Oklahoma.
This election has so many firsts, such as three Native American candidates for governors in Idaho, Hawaii, and Oklahoma.
One of those candidates for governor is Kevin Stitt, Cherokee. His career has been in business. He has not said a lot about tribal issues but has participated in a forum with the tribes. He was endorsed by President Donald J. Trump who tweeted: “Kevin Stitt ran a great winning campaign against a very tough opponent in Oklahoma,” Trump tweeted. “Kevin is a very successful businessman who will be a fantastic Governor. He is strong on Crime & Borders, the 2nd Amendment, & loves our Military & Vets. He has my complete and total Endorsement!”
There is a 100 percent increase in party nominees for Congress; a 300 percent increase in statewide candidates; and a seven percent increase in candidates for state legislatures.
In Oklahoma’s second congressional district, the next member of Congress will be a Cherokee citizen. Democrat Jason Nichols, the challenger, or the incumbent, Rep. Markwayne Mullin. He is one of two tribal citizens now serving in Congress along with Rep. Tom Cole.
Mullin started his reelection campaign with a controversy. Just by running. He broke a previous promise to only serve three terms (ticking off some of his more conservative supporters).
Mullin is a strong supporter of President Donald J. Trump and has said that his hope for this administration is “to end the overreaching paternalism that has held American Indians back from being the drivers of their own destiny.”
Nichols is the Mayor of Tahlequah. He says his campaign is about putting people ahead of politics and money. Recently commenting about the Cherokee Nation Holiday, Nichols said: “Our ancestors, I believe, would be proud of where we’ve come and where we’re headed in the Cherokee Nation.”
Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district has one of the highest percentages of Native American voters in the country at just over 17 percent.
I am Mark Trahant.