Mark Trahant / TrahantReports
It’s another primary Election Day. Tonight returns will come in from Oregon and Kentucky. And while most of the attention will be on the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders contest, there are a couple of other things worth thinking about. Especially in Oregon.
First: The primary is the Big Day for Tawna Sanchez. She’s a candidate for the Oregon House in Portland, District 43. She’s Shoshone-Bannock. The candidate who wins the primary will win the office. (Previous: A record year for Native candidates?)
Sanchez is running on a progressive platform. From her campaign page: “I’ve spent my life sticking up for women, children, and families. I protested coal and uranium mining on native reservations. I’ve helped create a domestic violence program that is a national model. I was the second employee at NAYA, and today we employ 120 people.”
If elected, Sanchez would be a voice for what I have called the most underrepresented people in the country, urban American Indians. (And bonus: Sanchez has received support from Oregon tribes, most recently an endorsement from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.)
Sanchez is running against Roberta Phillip-Robbins. Earlier this month it was reported that Phillip-Robins was ineligible to run for office because her job was funded by a federal grant. She resigned from her job. But as the Willamette Week noted: “… on May 9, Sean Cruz, a former legislative staffer who has endorsed Sanchez, filed an elections complaint against Phillip-Robbins, arguing that because she was ineligible to run between her Dec. 17, 2015, candidate filing and her May 6 resignation from the county, she illegally—if inadvertently—collected nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions during that time. “Election laws have been broken and an impartial investigation is called for,” Cruz wrote.”
This controversy continues on election day. This morning Sanchez posted an election alert on Facebook:
“People across the District are telling us they’ve receiving mail and visits from Roberta Phillip-Robbins canvassers falsely claiming I oppose stronger gun laws. That is a despicable lie! In fact, this picture is me joining Gabby Giffords for the kickoff of the Oregon Coalition for Common Sense, a statewide organization working to close the loopholes in our background checks system and make our communities safer. I am incredibly disappointed that my opponent is stooping to this level to try to win this election. I think my record speaks for itself as a leader for decades in the domestic violence community, this is not something I would do.”
There is another reason to watch Oregon’s Primary Election returns. Turnout. Oregon is a vote by mail state and consistently has a higher turnout than other states. It’s a system that makes it easy to vote.
Let’s look at the numbers. Eight years ago, was the last contested primary on both sides, and Oregon’s voter turnout was 43.2%, according to the United States Election Project. That was second only to New Hampshire’s 53.6% (the lowest primary turnout numbers would come from a few caucus states that don’t even bother to count.)
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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