Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

New Mexico state Sen. Benny Shendo won his primary for re-election. He will run unopposed in November. (Photo via Facebook.)


TrahantReports

It’s tempting to write that the primary season is over. That’s what we want, right? But the process has a long way to go. Between next week and September voters will continue to winnow down the number of candidates for the U.S. Senate, House as well as state and county offices. Even the presidential primary isn’t exactly over. DC votes next week (So I’d even like to call Tuesday’s election night the Penultimate Primary.)

That means a lot of the attention should shift from the top of the ticket to the candidates “down ballot.” (Data set: Native American congressional candidates.)

And now the news:

Denise Juneau is Montana’s Democratic nominee for Congress. The primary hints at the challenge ahead. It’s impossible to read trends from a primary, but Juneau had some 30,000 fewer votes than her opponent Rep. Ryan Zinke. What’s interesting here is not just the raw numbers, but the turnout, 44.41 percent. It’s more than a routine presidential primary, and slightly less than the exciting Democratic race in 2008. Juneau is Mandan and Hidatsa.

She posted on Facebook: “For the next 153 days, I’ll be making sure Montana voters know I’m the candidate who will fight to protect access to our cherished public lands, ensure the next generation graduates from high school prepared for success, and that all Montanans have the opportunity to build a brighter future.”

Former Rep. Frank Smith, a member of the Assiniboine-Sioux Tribes from Fort Peck, defeated Leann Montes and Bobbi Jo Favel, both Chippewa-Cree from Rocky Boy. I am fond of U.S. Highway 2 because it travels through so much of Indian Country — and this Senate district does that too (and a little more). It stretches from Rocky Boy, through Fort Belknap, on to Fort Peck. The seat had been held by Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, who reached term limits, and is now a candidate for a House seat. Smith will face Republican G. Bruce Meyers, who is Chippewa-Cree, in the general election.

Shane Morigeau won the primary to represent Missoula in the Legislature. “Many thanks to the voters of HD 95 and to everyone who has given so generously of their time and resources for yesterday’s success,” Morigeau posted on Facebook. Morigeau is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

However former Rep. Joey Jayne lost her bid for the Montana in Arlee. She lost to Tom France. Jayne is Navajo.

In New Mexico, incumbent state Sen. Benny Shendo Jr. defeated former Rep. Sandra Jeff. Shendo is Jemez Pueblo and Jeff is Navajo. Shendo will run unopposed on the November ballot.

I will update my spreadsheet soon listing all of the Native American candidates for state legislatures. Because the primary season is not over yet.

— Mark Trahant

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