#NativeVote16 – Feelin’ the endorsements. What newspapers say

Screenshot 2016-04-30 09.03.52Mark Trahant

Trahant Reports

Over the past four decades (did I really write that?) I have spent a lot of time on the question of endorsing candidates. At large newspapers, and small ones, my colleagues and I have taken that task seriously. We invite candidates in, hear them out, read everything possible, and come to a conclusion of one kind or another.

The very idea of “endorsements” seems odd in a democracy. Why would a newspaper tell anyone how to vote? But I never looked at it that way. I always saw it as another form of commentary. We weigh, we say, and then the debate continues. Nonetheless it always made readers mad (there are always folks on the other side of the question) and the next few days I’d be on the phone explaining ourselves. At least for offices such as the presidency, the Senate, Congress, and governors. But for other offices — Judges, water commissions, zoning boards, assessors and other assorted offices — readers often called and begged us to make an endorsement. We were a cheat sheet; over time people who read us often came to understand our thinking, our judgement, and so they used our picks as a guide to vote.

Every once in a while this process gets circumvented. Occasionally a publisher would use a veto over an editorial board pick (by occasionally I mean once) and in that case we ended up writing “no endorsement.” Publishers represent the owner and have the final say.

When I was a publisher I was the one circumventing. At the Navajo Times Today, I don’t think we ever endorsed anyone for the White House, but in 1984, the day after President Ronald Reagan’s re-election,  the entire editorial page was covered in black ink, except in reverse white letters were the words, “Four more years.” Now that was a statement (Reagan was popular enough to win every state in the electoral college except Minnesota.)

Two years later during a tribal election, I endorsed a candidate, writing for the paper, and surprised my colleagues. The editorial board was a mix of people who worked there. I felt it would be a difficult conversation for them because of news coverage, family ties, and a variety of complexity. So late in the day I sat down and wrote an editorial: The newspaper endorsed Peterson Zah for re-election as tribal president. He was running against Peter MacDonald. It did not go over well, not because of the pick, but because I didn’t stick to the process. But it did start a great conversation both within the newspaper walls and in the larger community of readers. I think it’s the last time the newspaper endorsed a candidate.

My point here is endorsements are tricky. It is a form of commentary, but it’s also intense.   Perhaps it’s something about that “we.”


Screenshot 2016-04-30 08.25.49
Lakota Country Times endorsement of Bernie Sanders.


In South Dakota the Native Sun News and Lakota Country Times both weighed in with presidential endorsements for the June 7 Democratic Party primary.

The Lakota Country Times went first. On March 31, editor Brandon Ecoffey wrote: “During each election cycle those of us who have managed to land ourselves in the editor’s chair at local newspapers across the country are required by tradition to endorse a candidate for the position of President of the United States of America. In what has turned out to be one of the strangest presidential races of my lifetime, choosing a candidate to endorse has turned out to be a really simple decision.”

Ecoffey called this election “a tipping point” because so much of the horrors of climate change are starting to occur. “The time to confront climate change is right now and the only logical choice for the presidency is Bernie Sanders,” he wrote. “The status quo in Washington has led to only incremental changes in the lives of Lakota people. It is simply time to shake things up. On June 7, 2016, South Dakota will hold its democratic primary and I implore all of Lakota Country to #Feelthebern .”




Screenshot 2016-04-30 08.34.06
Native Sun News endorsement editorial of Hillary Clinton.


However the Native Sun News supports Hillary Clinton. The newspaper’s unsigned editorial (there’s that “we”) said: “There is so much baloney flying around out there about Hillary Clinton that we want to set the record straight.”

The newspaper cited Clinton’s qualifications and her track record in Indian Country. “We think it is high time to kick the old white men off of the podium and replace them with a strong, highly gifted woman,” the Native Sun News said. “With little fanfare she has visited Indian Country when she was First Lady. She has made a study of the many problems we face as Native Americans and is determined to follow in the footsteps of Obama and do something about it. In order to even have a chance at getting the land in the Black Hills returned to us (Sioux) we need Hillary.”

Should bloggers endorse? I don’t know about that, but for what I am trying to do, no. My goal is improving the discourse about Native Americans in this election and letting readers know about the variety and the quality of Indian Country’s candidates. That means stepping back, writing what I see, and staying independent.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com









Exploring the medium. #TrahantReports #NextJournalism #Summergigs #SocialMedia #NativeVote16



Introspection day.

Last spring’s crowd-sourcing campaign did not pan out as I expected. I did raise about a month’s worth of work — so it was helpful — but it wasn’t enough to cover the cost of some of the stories I had planned. The biggest disappointment was from media that use my column for free. Several pledged a contribution, but only one actually followed through. So going forward I don’t think I can count on media partners. I need to worker harder to build my own independent platform.

That raises all sorts of questions: Do I keep my content free? Do I create some sort of subscription plan? How would that work in a social media world where people share content? Perhaps look for a way to shift my reporting to a nonprofit? Or even sell my blog to one organization?

The bottom line for me is I fill a void. No one else is covering elections in Indian Country the way I am. And even some of the larger outfits that are covering elections are exclusively focused on the presidential rather than a broad look at all the races in Indian Country. (Which this year, it seems to me, is particularly exciting.)

Whichever route I try I need to raise enough money to get out into the field, and if possible, cover the conventions. What I’d really like to do: Tap into my network of young people and hire an intern or two. I could especially use a producer for my radio reports. Good thoughts for the future.


A quick update about what I do.

Last year wrote more than 150 posts, topics ranging from introducing Native candidates running for office to a village’s quest for sovereignty in Alaska. Most of the stories were posted on trahantreports.com and then reposted by other media. This includes:  Indianz.com, posting more than 70 stories; Indian Country Today Media Network, 61 stories since last year; NativeNewsOnline.Net more than 40 stories; as well as New America Media, High Country News, Daily Yonder, Blue Nation Review, and Al Jazeera.

I have also produced for more than a year now a weekly audio commentary distributed via Native Voice One that’s available for tribal radio stations or accessed over the Internet. One option is to find an underwriter for the audio program and really concentrate on that (meaning less time for the posts). Right now the commentary is provided by me for free as a service.

I am particularly proud of my post (and idea) to create an American Indian tribal primary. I think it has real potential and I will keep working on it.

In addition to the conventions, I am building what could be the most exhaustive list of Native American candidates and elected officials. I have more than 80 names in my spread sheet. I will release that story after filing deadlines in June. It includes candidates for county commissions, city councils, and state legislatures. This cycle we may have as many as a dozen Native Americans running for Congress. If even a few are elected, we will significantly increase the 0.37 representation in the Congress now.

Thanks again for your help. I’m eager to learn what you think might work to support this enterprise.

— Mark

#NativeVote16 – Tribes weigh in, power of endorsements

Denise Juneau
Mark Trahant


Tribes in Montana and North Dakota went on record last week “endorsing” candidates. 

The Salish Kootenai Tribe endorsed Denise Juneau’s bid for Congress. Juneau is scheduled to visit all of Montana’s reservations during the month. (Previous: Denise Juneau, It’s Really Good To be Here.) Tribal chairman Vernon Finley said on Montana Public Radio that it’s not common for the tribe to endorse political candidates. However Juneau is “a viable candidate and she represents all of the issues that we find important,” he said.

North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes endorsed Chase Iron Eyes for Congress, Cesar Alvarez and Kenton Onstad for seats in the North Dakota House of Representatives, and Ruth Buffalo for North Dakota Insurance Commissioner. The MHA Times reported that the candidates made a pitch to the tribal council. “Following the presentations, Chairman Mark Fox gave each of the councilmen an opportunity to speak to the three candidates. The individual councilmen affirmed their support of the three politicians, praising them for their accomplishments, and wishing them good luck,” the Times said.

Do political endorsements from tribes matter? Absolutely. At a meeting of Montana Democrats last month Sen.  Jon Tester urged to tribes to endorse candidates because “when it comes to national fundraising,” he said.”It counts a lot.” One reason why it matters is that it sends a signal that candidates who earn endorsements understand what’s important to Native Americans.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
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#NativeVote16 – How drawing new lines on a map opens a path to Native Americans winning more offices


Critics said Arizona’s legislative district 7 was designed to favor Democrats. Last week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the process used by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission . Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai is running for the Senate in that district. (Campaign photo)







Independent commission looks beyond politics

Mark Trahant


The toughest challenge for any democracy is making certain that the rules of voting are fair. How fair? A system that allows voters to toss politicians out of office. Every politician in the world proclaims that’s how it ought to be, and then, often silently, accepts or promotes rules that favor one political point of view. Or, more important, supports rules designed to keep an incumbent in power.

That very idea is like a concrete wall when it comes to increasing voter participation by American Indians, Alaska Natives, or any other disenfranchised constituent group. The more we vote, the more we change things. And we elect people like us, new voices, so that means those in power have a great deal to lose.

So many state legislatures cook the books. Here is how it works: Win an election shortly after the Census and you can rig the election rules for the next decade. Draw district boundaries so they are not competitive.  At the beginning of the 20th century there were 357 seats in Congress, many of them multi-district seats. But by 1968 all of Congress had been replaced by districts where the combination of geography and demography limited competition. State legislatures drew maps that created “safe seats.” Or as Ballotpedia puts it: “Incumbency is king and gerrymandering has left only a few handful of districts truly competitive.”

Fair Vote says more than 85 percent of U.S. House seats “are completely safe for the party that holds them, and only 4 percent will be true toss-ups in 2016.” And what would it take to flip the House from Republican leadership? Fair Vote says the Democrats would have to roll up at least a 12 percent margin of victory in the presidential race. (A landslide is one antidote to a rigged system).

So in Massachusets congressional districts favor Democrats who win all 9 of the state’s seats when about 40 percent of the people votes for Republicans. Before 2000 Arizona was not quite the opposite story because Democrats could win in Tucson, but every other district was tilted to favor Republicans.


Arizona voters pick a different route

But the thing is: Voters want fair elections even if politicians don’t. So an Arizona initiative was passed in 2000 to strip politics from the process of redistricting. The new law created a five-member Independent Redistricting Commission to take over the task from the legislature. The mission: “The concept of one-person, one-vote dictates that districts should be roughly equal in population. Other factors to be considered are the federal Voting Rights Act, district shape, geographical features, respect for communities of interest and potential competitiveness. The state Constitution requires the commissioners – two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent chairwoman – to start from scratch rather than redraw existing districts.”

I have written a lot about how Arizona’s 1st Congressional District has the highest percentage of Native Americans in the country. Norm DeWeaver, who does fantastic demographic work as a consultant to tribes and tribal organizations, pointed out “that this did not happen by accident.”

DeWeaver said the Independent Redistricting Commission conducted a public hearing process that included voices from Indian Country, including several meetings on tribal lands.

“The Navajo Human Rights Commission was there and very vocal during that long process,” DeWeaver said. “Staff and consultants were there at every one of the many, many meetings. They made strong efforts to consult every tribe … And they got nearly everything they wanted.”

DeWeaver’s point: “Good things don’t happen for Indian Country without a really strong effort.”

A really strong effort in Utah (and by strong effort, I mean litigation) pressed San Juan County to redraw county commission and school board districts so that Navajos would be the majority in two of the three seats. In February a federal court agreed and ordered new districts. One interesting twist in this case: The Court acted on constitutional grounds rather than the Voting Rights Act citing the Equal Protection clause.

It’s hard to understate the importance of redistricting to the success of Native Americans at the ballot box. In Arizona, Montana, and other states where the tribal vote is effective, there is a match between geography and demographics. Basically a reservation or a community votes together, as a bloc. But not every state does that.  Alaska Natives are underrepresented because the district boundaries dilute their vote.

That’s a lot of background, but that brings me back to the news, last week’s  Supreme Court’s ruling about Arizona’s redistricting process.

This was the second such case involving Arizona and the focus was on how equal each district must be in terms of population. The plaintiffs argued that the commission packed more people into Republican districts than Democratic ones (by a variation of 4 to 8 percent). The commission did this to specifically group minority voters, including Native Americans.

Indeed one of the districts debated in the case is Arizona Legislative District 7. This district is “underpopulated by 4.25 percent” and one reason for that is the district does not include Flagstaff because of different community interests, not politics. There are three Navajo candidates running to represent District 7 in the Legislature; Jamescita Peshlakai in the Senate and Wenona Benally and Eric Descheenie for the two House seats. (Previous: A Record Year for Candidates?)

Political districts are not just lines on a map, but a reflection of a community, and making certain that every community has a voice. And the opportunity to win.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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#NativeVote16 – Little dollars could turn the world of politics upside down


Congressional candidate Victoria Steele leads in the Little Money race. What would it take to make that a competitive metric? (Campaign photo)


Measuring contributions of $25 or less

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Let’s turn the world upside down.

A “normal” political story might examine finances for political candidates starting with who raised the most money, where it came from, and what that means for their prospects at the ballot. Money equals success.

I am not going to do that. Instead I am going to start by reporting who’s winning the battle for little dollars. Which one of the seven Native American candidates for Congress are getting money from people who might be giving up a dinner out. Then sending $25 or less to a candidate for Congress. And “sending” isn’t the right word. It’s investing.

Let’s measure how American Indians and Alaska Natives are investing in our our candidates, in our future, in ourselves.

We can’t control who gets the money from Political Action Committees, casinos, or even many tribes. But we can decide for ourselves who is worthy of our investment.

So who does well using this measure? Victoria Steele in Arizona. Of the seven active Native Americans running for Congress she has the most small donors, 86 to be precise, who invested $1,924.00 That’s not a lot of cash. But what if that idea could be expanded across Indian Country? What if our values, and then our actions, rewarded candidates with lots of little donors?

Of course this is exactly what happened on the presidential level. First, Barack Obama, and now Bernie Sanders, showed that you could raise tens of millions of dollars from small amounts.

Indian Country could do the same thing. If even a small fraction of American Indian and Alaska Native voters sent money to Native American candidates the total could be significant.

So, borrowing an idea from my manager days, I am going to start capturing this data. (You change what you measure.) Starting with the April 15 Federal Election Commission filing, I  am charting on a spreadsheet which Native candidates earn the most support at $25 or less.

For now I am just looking at the reports for congressional candidates, but the principle ought to be for every candidate for every office. Especially those running for state legislatures. (Previous: The hidden history of why Native Americans lose elections and what to do about it.)

Over the years I have heard from so many candidates who said they did not get any financial support from the Democratic or Republican Party or even wealthy individuals who give to just about everybody. (The Washington Post recently reported that half of all Political Action Committee donations come from just 50 people.)

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can take that authority away from the parties, tribal enterprises, casinos, even fat cats, all by sending little dollars. (There are even easy third-party online tools to send money in small amounts, such as ActBlue for Democrats, or ActRight for Republicans.) As I have written before it would be great to see a Native American version of these kinds of groups that bundle, report, and pass along donations to candidates and causes.


Big money is important too

I don’t want to discount candidates who are raising serious money. Kudos to Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, who’s raised more than a million dollars, or MarkWayne Mullin in the same state. Both incumbents have primary challengers. Cole is Chickasaw and Mullin is Cherokee.

Montana’s Denise Juneau is breaking fundraising records for Democrats in her state. She has raised $626,741 as of March 31. Most of her money has come from Montanans and about a third has been in increments of less than $100. “From farmers and nurses to software engineers and teachers, the excitement and momentum for our campaign comes from every corner of Montana,” Juneau said. “Montanans are ready for a leader who puts them first, and they know I’ll be that leader in Congress.”

But Juneau is also resetting the bar higher in terms of donation from a wide cross-section of Indian Country. She has received donations from tribes and tribal enterprises, including from Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Lummi Indian Nation, Oneida Indian Nation, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Quinault Indian Tribe, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Squaxin Island Tribe, Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Suquamish Tribe, Swinomish Tribal Community, and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.

Arizona Republican Carlyle Begay has already raised $39, 906 in his bid for the first congressional district. He has few individual contributions, but his report shows contributions from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, Barona Band of Mission Indians, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Porch Band of Creek Indians.

One of the challenges for Native American candidates is that they need to reach a minimum level of funding before they will get financial help from the national political parties.

Joe Pakootas is the former chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington. He is now a candidate for Congress in Washington’s 5th District. He remembers when politicians would approach the tribe for donations. “We’d interview them and make sure they were going to support the issues that were important to us. That happened and we would throw some dollars at them,” Pakootas said. “Well, when I got into this race in 2014, I thought, this is going to be easy. I can go around and talk to all the tribes, I am Native American, and one of them, and maybe they will support me graciously, handsomely. I was completely wrong on that issue.”

Pakootas said he received about $39,000 from tribes. He said he thought it was a lot until he talked to some of the other candidates, non-Indians “who let me know he had received $80,000 from tribes. It was kind of disappointing.” He said this time around he hopes to change that, even if dollars aren’t flowing in just yet.

The national party has not helped the Pakootas campaign. He said when he started running he was told he would need to generate about $500,000 in revenue before the Democrat’s congressional committee would help him raise more money. (Previous: Six seats Natives can win to flip Congress.)

One of these days we will find a way to reduce the role of money in political campaigns. I have long thought we should come up with a better alternative, such as taxpayer-funded campaigns, that level the playing field. But that kind of reform is far off.

“It’s sad that money plays such a huge role in winning these races,” said Denise Juneau. “We have to raise money to make sure we get the message out about my record of accomplishment, my ideas for moving forward, how I am going to include everybody in the  path that goes to Congress.”

Juneau said you don’t always need a lot of money to win. Sometimes even selling t-shirts helps a campaign. “It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a significant difference. Because, just like votes .. we gather up every little vote in Montana and it comes in aggregate and we win.”

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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#NativeVote16 – Seven Native candidates for Congress




After looking at this week’s campaign finance reports, it’s clear that there are now just seven active Native American candidates for Congress. (Two people I have been following in Arizona have not filed campaign documents or financial reports.)

I will have a new post on Sunday about money, but wanted to post an update about the number of candidates.

Here is my spreadsheet, via Google’s Fusion Tables. The interactive spreadsheet has three functions, a spreadsheet, a tab for individual cards for each candidate, and a map showing the location of each race.



— Mark




#NativeVote16 – Huge New York crowds hear Bernie Sanders, but can they vote?

Screenshot 2016-04-14 07.11.58
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking in New York City. (Photo via YouTube Live)

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

A friend writes from time to time and makes the case against Native Americans voting. One of the arguments is that “when you vote, you willingly and voluntarily abandon your nation’s sovereignty. And also because Indian as well as non-Indian votes do not matter one bit in presidential elections.”

And the evidence cited is a Princeton study that looks at how business, economic elites, and other organized groups are determining the outcome of issues, not voters.

That study is exactly right. But you don’t need to look at the research. Just look at the New York primary that’s ahead next week.

Some 30,000 people packed into New York City’s Washington Square Park to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders speak on Wednesday night. And, as Sanders has done since Iowa, he met with Native people, including those from the Mohawk and Onondaga Nations. There was a rally at the American Indian Community House featuring author Gyasi Ross.

I can see young people getting excited, #feelingthebern, and then come Tuesday will find out they cannot vote. New York has a closed primary. Voters had to change party affiliation last October and register by March in order to participate. (The same rules tripped up the children of Donald Trump who cannot vote in the Republican primary.) That’s important because one of the strengths of Sanders’ campaign is his appeal to independents. That group (which includes me) cannot vote in a closed primary.

The fact is Hillary Clinton has a structural advantage in New York (the state that sent her to the Senate). She has her voters. But she also has an issue with the way New York votes; it’s mostly cast on election day. Absentee voting is difficult.

Of course it’s all unfair. But that’s my point. Our entire system from the nomination process to the Electoral College is more convoluted than even our tax system. (Previous: America and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad election.)

So in New York this likely benefits Clinton. Sure, Sanders could still win the day, but how many delegates will he earn? It will only produce more evidence that the vote itself is illogical.

Same goes for the many caucus states where people who were independent, traveling, working, sick, or perhaps forgot, could not vote. You had to show up at a certain time and vote in public. No secret ballots allowed.

Instead of making voting easy we make it harder. Three trends are making this worse: Restrictive laws that discourage participation, such as onerous voting ID requirements; unlimited campaign spending; and, most important, a refusal to invest in democracy and rethink the system itself.

This week for example I wrote about three statewide Native candidates in North Dakota. Great. That’s the whole theme of my blog. But North Dakota also happens to be one of those states with restrictive voting ID requirements. In January the Native American Rights Fund filed a suit under the Voting Rights Act challenging the state’s law because “On January 20, 2016, seven Native Americans from North Dakota filed suit under the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. and North Dakota Constitutions challenging North Dakota’s recently enacted voter ID law on the grounds it disproportionately burdens Native Americans and denies qualified voters the right to vote.”

One significant problem across Indian Country is the lack of a “physical” address. Many reservation residents don’t live on a street with a name. The irony was that North Dakota used to be one of the best places to vote.  “Thus, in both the primary and general election in 2014, many qualified North Dakota Native American voters were disenfranchised because their IDs did not list their residential address,” according to the lawsuit.

Sen. Sanders talks often about the second trend, the obscene amount of spending by wealthy people,  interest groups, and corporations.

But the problem with our democracy far bigger than that. We have a structural imbalance and the country’s institutions from Congress to state governments are unwilling to spend the money to fix it. We saw that in Arizona. Maricopa Country reduced the number of polling places to save money. The result was a mess. And the Deparment of Justice is now investigating.

But the issue is not limited to that county or even Arizona. We need to rethink elections and invest in a better mechanism that makes certain that every citizen has the opportunity to participate.

On my list:

Rethink the primaries. Should parties decide or voters? What process gives everyone a say? Will a vote count equally in California or Wyoming? Or better: Indian Country?

We must rethink how we elect Congress. It’s makeup does not reflect the country, either in demographics or ideology. We have too many safe districts that flatten our discourse. (Previous: Indigenous voices are needed to make U.S. a stronger democracy.)

And we need to spend enough money to make sure that our votes are counted. Every vote.

And as for the Electoral College? Hell no.

The system is rigged. So why not just give up and not vote? Because then it never will change for the better. Democracies around the world have figured out smarter methods for giving their citizens a say, including Native voters.

It’s time to give democracy a try.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
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#NativeVote16 – Native North Dakota

Cesar Alvarez is a candidate for North Dakota’s House of Representatives. (Campaign photo via Facebook.)
Mark Trahant / TrahantReports


North Dakota now has three Native American candidates running for statewide office. Chase Iron Eyes was nominated recently by the state’s Democratic Party as their candidate for the state’s only seat in Congress. Now this week Ruth Buffalo filed for the post of Insurance Commissioner. And Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun will seek a seat on the three-member Public Services Commission. Both Buffalo and Hunte-Beaubrun are running as Democrats (technically representing the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party).

Count ’em: Three statewide campaigns.

Ruth Buffalo (Bush Foundation photo)

Buffalo is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. She has been a Bush Fellow, identified as a leader bringing expertise to finding  “sustainable solutions to the tough problems that face Native people and nations.” She has also directed the United Tribes Wellness Center, coached men’s and women’s basketball and taught other wellness-related activities. North Dakota Business Watch named her as a “40 under 40 leader” in 2010. She holds a BS in criminal justice from Huron University and a master’s in management from the University of Mary. The commissioner post manages the state’s insurance department.

Hunte-Beaubrun has filed to run against the current chairman of the Public Service Commission, Julie Fedorchak. According to the Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College Facebook page, Hunte-Beaubrun is director for the college’s new Entrepreneurship Center. She has also been executive director of the Great Plains Economic and Commerce Association and is a Standing Rock Sioux tribal member.

The Public Service Commission regulates the oil and gas industry as well as telecommunications, weights and measures, and pipelines. In January the agency approved the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Previous: Pipelines, rail cars, and the price of oil.)

In addition to the statewide races, longtime educator David Gipp is running for the North Dakota Senate. Most recently Gipp has been chancellor of the United Tribes Technical College and is one of the founders of the school. Gipp is Standing Rock Sioux. He would represent the Mandan area.

Another Three Affiliated Tribal Member, Cesar Alvarez, is running for the State House of Representatives. He wrote on his Facebook page: “Paperwork is all filed and have been certified by the ND Secretary of State’s Office to be officially placed on the June 14th North Dakota Primary Election Ballot for the office of District 4 House of Representatives as the Democratic-NPL candidate! It’s full speed on to the primary! I need each and every one of your vote and support on June 14th and November 8th!”

Sen. Richard Marcellais, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, is not up for re-election until 2018

*** Update ***

Two more ND legislative candidates who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes:

District 32 House candidate Cheryl Ann Kary (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)

District 22 Senate candidate Steve Allard (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)

(State office candidates spreadsheet here.)

It’s been said that this is an outsider’s election. And I’ve written before that you cannot get any more “outsider” than running a Native American candidate. North Dakota is putting these two ideas to the test.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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#NativeVote – Looks like a good time to think about primaries, democracy, and the way it ought to be

Next up.




Editing next video profile, Joe Pakootas. It was an interesting interview. We talked about his campaign, raising money, and what it might mean to have enough members for a true Native American caucus in Congress.

I am also thinking about primaries & democracy. The system is a mess. It’s not just this election but it goes back to layer of layer of missteps. I remember a friend who looked at the nominating process and said, “gee, the smoke filled rooms were more democratic than what we’ve got.” Some states are caucus, private affairs for those who show up. Some states are taxpayer-funded primaries. Some states are conventions. And some states are hybrids. Crazy. We had a great debate about this at the Seattle P-I when I lived in Washington state; the solution in that case was a top-two primary. That’s a system that party bosses really hate. But there ought to be a way to pick a president that works for voters — especially those who are independent, or even, Green or Libertarian.

Along those lines, today’s rhyme:

Both party rules are unfair/that’s why Ron Paul went nowhere/and Bill Bradley played against a stacked deck/So voters wonder: What the heck?

I am also updating the database of all Native candidates. Congress. State Legislatures. Would love to hear more about county commissions, city councils, Mayors.

(And a busy week on campus.) — Mark


ps. If you haven’t watched (or shared) the Denise Juneau profile, please do. I am so close to 10,000 views on FB.