Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports
This is it: Sixteen days until this election is over. And, as I have been reporting, this is such a significant election for Indian Country with both the quantity and the quality of Native Americans who are running for office.
In Washington’s Fifth Congressional District, the campaign for Joe Pakootas sent an urgent email. “This race is very close,” said the subject line. “Will you help flip this district?”
“At this point, it’s all hands on deck. We need volunteers and that means you. Recent polling is showing that this race is not only very close – it’s entirely winnable! We just need to turn out people to vote, and that’s where you come in. Our staff is working extremely hard 7 days a week, but we need your help. Joe is asking you to take part in this revolution,” the email said. Of course the Pakootas campaign asked for money, that’s critical right now. But it also asked for volunteers to make phone calls and to wave signs on busy intersections. “The timing is right, the political climate is right, and the candidate is absolutely qualified and ready to serve. Joe Pakootas has unprecedented support from Democrats, independents, and Republicans. There will never be a better time than now. ” Pakootas is Colville and a former chairman of the tribe.
Montana’s Denise Juneau is getting a boost. According to the Daily Kos (basing its reporting on a subscription-only post from Politico) says the House Majority PAC is investing $451,000 on TV ads on behalf of Juneau “signaling they think she has a shot against GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke. While Montana is a red state, Juneau’s proven to be a strong fundraiser, and her own polling from earlier this month found Zinke ahead just 45-42. Of course, Zinke’s internals had him ahead by a much wider 49-38 margin, but evidently, HMP either believes Juneau’s numbers are closer to the mark—or Donald Trump’s deterioration has reached into Big Sky Country in the two weeks since those campaign polls (conducted before the Access Hollywood tapes came out) were made public.” Juneau is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and grew up in the Blackfeet Nation.
In Oklahoma, Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, says Donald Trump could “damage” the career of House Speaker Paul Ryan. He told the Tulsa World that now might be a good time for Ryan “to go fishing for awhile.” Cole said “as his friend, it might be best for him to wrap up business and think about his future. Paul will have a big decision to make.”
Of course the Republican caucus was divided before Donald Trump. But his candidacy has made those divisions more visible and there will be lots of finger pointing (and retribution) after the election. Basically folks will be trying to answer the question, “why did we lose?” But like four years ago when the answer comes back with reasonable conclusions (such as a more diverse Republican party something suggested after the 2012 loss) the True Believers will ignore the results.
In South Dakota there is a last minute pitch to move the early voting location in Oglala Lakota County to make it easier for people to vote. The current location is several miles out of town and near a construction site.
Henry Red Cloud, Oglala Sioux, and a candidate for Public Utilities Commission, told KSFY that this violates the people’s right to vote. “When people are unable to exercise that right, or feel uncomfortable exercising that right because they fear for their safety at their polling location, our democracy is diminished,” Red Cloud said.
North Dakota’s Chase Iron Eyes posted a call to vote on Facebook. “As an activist I never cared about voting. I can see now how apathy about the political process allows establishment paid for politicians to stay in power like a revolving door,” he wrote. “We have forgotten our roots, outside money is running the show here and yet we don’t vote. I’m not running as a Native candidate I’m running because I am a true human being, a leader, a lawyer, a father, a husband a critical thinker who is not afraid to take on these unqualified politicians who have never known real leadership in their lives. They don’t know sacrifice. We need an upset. We need you to vote.”
There is one other thing I want to mention about Iron Eyes. There has been a lot of talk about rising fears from farms and neighbors who live near the camps at Standing Rock. Well at one of those ranches near the Dakota Access Pipeline project, I saw several Iron Eyes for Congress signs. Could that be a sign of an upset?
Sixteen days. Every vote, every phone call adds possibility.
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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