It’s easy to be optimistic about the prospects for American Indian and Alaska Native candidates in this election and beyond. Our numbers are growing, organizations are getting stronger, and, best of all, the most remarkable, talented people are giving elective office a shot.
This is Trahant Reports.
But we also hear people say this about elections: What happens when good people lose?
It’s important to remember that politics has a long arc. Change does not happen after one election — or even after someone we like wins. It’s a constant push for change.
We need to think of politics as a routine: We encourage candidates, help when we can, organize, and, repeat when necessary. T
Then there is Trahant’s Rule: You gotta run to win.
There is no substitute for someone taking that risk to put their name on a ballot. It’s a tough thing to do and we should honor all of those who are willing to try.
This August we will lose several Native American candidates. In Alaska, for example, Edgar Blatchford lost his primary for the U.S. Senate. He ended up second in a field of three.
Blatchford is a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He was a late entry into the race. He ran with little money, promoting his candidacy largely via social media.
He told me: “The idea in this campaign was that no one wanted to file as a Democrat.” So Blatchford jumped in (and then two others did as well).
Blatchford is Yupik and was the only Native American running for the U.S. Senate. It’s too bad his campaign didn’t have more time (and money). He has a resume worth considering: Once Mayor of Seward, a professor, owner of a newspaper chain, chief executive officer of a what is now Chugach Native Corporation, and he served in a governor’s cabinet.
Too often, Blatchford said, the first question people asked him was: “How much money have you raised? Not whether I am a Democrat, Republican, or what I believe.”
Then he laughed and added, “I have nothing.”
There are two areas of the country where it’s a question of “when” not “if” there will be Native representation in Congress. Alaska is one such place. And Arizona is another.
And, speaking of Arizona, voters go to the polls Tuesday to pick party nominees. Four Native candidates have primary challengers — and the field will likely narrow.
But in order to get real representation for Indian Country in Congress and legislatures this fact remains: People gotta run in order to win. I am Mark Trahant reporting.