The money chase. #NativeVote18 federal candidates make their pitch for big bucks

tom-cole-right
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a member of The Chickasaw Nation, raised more than $869,000 last year. #NativeVote18 (Campaign photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

It’s time to look at the money. How much money are #NativeVote18 candidates raising?

Yes, I know, this is a silly metric. After all there is no relationship to governing and calling up people you don’t know and asking them for money. Yet this is the system in place. A candidate is more likely to be successful if she or he can raise a lot of money.

So it’s no surprise that the big money collectors — even in Indian Country — are the ones who already hold office or who have held office recently. And it’s probably no surprise that the big money is headed down Republican alley.

The top money raiser is Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma. The latest Federal Election Commission reports were posted at the end of January and reflect fundraising for 2017. His net: $1.7 million, cash on hand.

Several tribes donated the maximum amount to Cole’s campaign. Oklahoma tribes, such as his own, the Chickasaw, and the Cherokee Nation, backed Cole as well as tribes from across the country ranging from Penobscot to Stillaguamish.

Some of the contributors have different agendas. Tribes, for example, support Cole because of his strong stands on tribal sovereignty. Yet the American Dental Association, another contributor, has worked against that very issue by challenging the tribes right to regulate mid-level dental practices. (Previous: Tribal sovereignty and the call for better oral health.)

Washington congressional candidate Dino Rossi comes in second for fundraising last year, netting a little more than a million dollars. This is remarkable when you consider he was not even a candidate until September. Rossi is Tlingit and Italian.

As I wrote in September:  “One of his first jobs was working for Bernie Whitebear at Seattle’s United Indians of All Tribes. It’s interesting how some candidates make their tribal affiliation prominent and weigh in on issues that impact Indian Country. That would not be Rossi. But he doesn’t shy away (as many politicians do) from the conversation. It’s just not his focus.”

His campaign finance report bears that out. You won’t find a lot of tribal money.

deb_haaland_-_courtesy_cpilar_law1
Debra Haaland, who is running for Congress in New Mexico, raised more than $386,000 in her bid. If elected, she would be the first Native woman ever elected to the House. (Campaign photo)

The top Democrat for fundraising this cycle is Debra Haaland running in Albuquerque. She ended the year just shy of $200,000 in cash. Haaland, of course, and I can’t write it often enough, would be the first Native American woman ever elected to Congress. She’s running in a district that favors Democrats but she must win the primary first against seven other candidates. So far Sedillo Lopez, a former associate dean at the University of New Mexico Law School, has raised some $456,000 and reports $348,000 in cash on hand. Haaland has raised a total of $386,000 in contributions.

There is a huge difference between Haaland’s fundraising and Cole’s money. Most of her contributions come in $10 and $25 chunks. Small money. But that’s important because it could reflect interest by real voters instead of tribes and Political Action Committees and business interests. She does get some money from tribes, including her own, Laguna Pueblo, but not nearly as much as is found in Cole’s treasury.

The race for Oklahoma’s second congressional district could become the first election between two tribal members, the incumbent, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, and his challenger Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols. Both men are Cherokee.

But so far on the money side it’s not much of a contest. Mullin raised about $725,000 last year, netting $434,333.37. Nichols raised $17,575.52 and ended with $8,287.30 cash on hand.

The trick in any campaign is to raise as much money as needed to be competitive. That doesn’t always mean first. But it does mean having the resources to compete in media advertising, including social media, hiring staff, and organizing.

Several #NativeVote18 candidates showed no fundraising in the FEC reports. It could be because there fundraising is scant, or ramping up later, or because reports have not been filed yet.

#NativeVote18 spreadsheet of federal candidates with links to FEC reports.

Next up: State candidate fundraising totals.

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please do so. Just credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com #IndigenousNewsWire #NativeVote18

 

 

If, then, this. The shift from campaign promises to Indian Country policies

p111016ps-0211_1
President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Nov. 10, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

If, then, this. A series of three words explaining what happens in any new White House. If Donald Trump wins the presidency, then many (not all) of the promises made during the campaign become policy. And it happens starting next month when the Congress races to try and make this so.

But “if, then, this,” is also about people. Who staffs the new campaign, especially those who represent Indian Country? And who represents the opposition?

So let’s start with what we know.

It’s likely that President-elect Donald J. Trump will nominate Cathy McMorris Rodgers as the next Interior Secretary and Tom Price as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Who joins them? Who has their ear? How will their broad views on public policy impact Indian Country?  (Previous: Trump’s choice for Interior could risk salmon recovery, treaty rights.)

As The Atlantic said about Price. He will be running a massive federal healthcare agency, one that “administers the largest health-research centers in the world, most of the country’s public-health apparatus, the Indian Health Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and a collection of welfare and child-care services. While Price has a less-established policy record on many of these issues, his general philosophy of rolling back government spending and intervention suggests he may scale back HHS’s current efforts.” A less established policy record opens up a lot of questions.

15241337_1140920572627658_2492211361591635041_n

Another appointment, yet to be announced, would be in the next president’s executive office. Arizona State Sen. Carlyle Begay posted on Instagram: “It’s official … I’ll be working in the White House.” (Begay’s account is private, but it was reposted by Navajo Republicans on Facebook.) He doesn’t elaborate on the job title, but the most likely that post would be as a special assistant to the president on the Domestic Policy staff, a post now held by Karen Diver. Begay is Navajo.

One of the issues that the White House and Congress will have to flesh out is a proposal by Rep. Markwayne Mullin to reform the regulatory structure for tribal lands. A story in Reuters last week compared that plan to the termination, something that Mullin (who is a member of the Cherokee Nation) and former Interior Assistant Secretary Ross Swimmer say is not the case. Swimmer, who is also former principal chief for the Cherokee Nation, told Reuters: “It has to be done with an eye toward protecting sovereignty.”

Mullin said the press misunderstood him. He posted on Facebook: “This is a very personal and important issue for me and I want to clarify my actual comments that were distorted by the media. It is still and will always be my belief that the land entrusted to tribes belongs to the Native American people, and it ought to be up to them alone to decide how to best use and distribute the resources on their own land.”

Economist Terry Anderson has been making this case for years first from a think tank in Montana, The Property and Environment Research Center, and rom the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He wrote just last month: “President-elect Trump is well positioned to grant more freedom to Native Americans.” (Note to Republicans: If you are serious about making this a policy, I would avoid the ‘free the Indians’ narrative. This was Arthur Watkins’ pitch during termination. The phrase has a definite and failed context.)

As will often be the case in a Trump White House, Anderson’s argument focuses on energy. “Considering the fact that tribes have an estimated $1.5 trillion in energy resources, President Trump should start by promoting more tribal authority over those resources,” Anderson wrote. “Such legislation is helping tribes like the coal-rich Crow. In 2013 it signed an option with Cloud Peak Energy, LLC to lease 1.4 billion tons of reservation coal. For the option, Cloud Peak paid the tribe $3.75 million and payments could increase to $10 million by 2018 if they start mining. These kinds of deals give Indians some reason for hope.”

iea-mediumterm-coal-market-report-2015-3-638

If, then, this. Except. I would question at least one variable in this argument. If tribes have more say about resource extraction, then will tribes also have more say about environmental concerns? Does this logic give tribes a veto over resource extraction? Would that include approval or rejection of the Missouri River crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline?

And specifically on coal, if there is a smaller global market for coal, then what’s the point? The International Energy Agency last year reduced its prediction for coal demand (after a decade of growing sales) in part because China’s consumption is dropping sharply. “The coal industry is facing huge pressures, and the main reason is China, but it is not the only reason,” said the agency’s executive director Fatih Birol. “The economic transformation in China and environmental policies worldwide – including the recent climate agreement in Paris – will likely continue to constrain global coal demand.”

That study predicts coal from India and Australia are growing and that the pipeline is already exceeding the capacity. “Probable” new export mining capacities amount to approximately 95 million tonnes per annum. But the current market environment strongly discourages investments as a substantial rebound of coal prices before 2020 is unlikely. Consequently, further postponements or cancellations of projects are expected.” So it’s not a great time to unleash coal as a market force (unless even lower prices are the goal).

If the world is moving past fossil fuel expansion, then the markets will not be there. This will not change in a pro-coal administration.

If there is to be a Secretary McMorris Rodgers, then who would develop and implement policy for Indian Country as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs? There are a lot of talented Republicans who will be making their case in the next few days and weeks. You would hope that people who have served in previous administrations, such as Swimmer, will have a say in what qualities should be sought to match the requirements of the office. Same goes for elected leaders such as Mullin, Rep. Tom Cole, and even those in state governments, such as New Mexico Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, a member of the Navajo Nation.

The idea of “if, then, this,” is also important to the opposition party, the Democrats.

McMorris Rodgers must give up her congressional seat. And already there are three candidates. But former Colville Chairman Joe Pakootas said he will not run in a special election. He’s now chief executive of Spokane Tribal Enterprises.

But there are other ballot possibilities. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is a candidate to chair the Democratic National Committee. If he were to win that job, then he has said he would give up his seat in Congress. Already on Twitter there is speculation that the best candidate for the House seat would be Minnesota Rep. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

If, then, this.

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

#NativeVote16 – Is Facebook enough to win a Senate primary in Alaska?

maxresdefault
Social media messaging: Edgar Blatchford makes a pitch to voters via YouTube.

 

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Could social media be a tool used to propel a successful candidacy? Of course not. At least that’s what people say. After all: Politics has always been done this way.

But Alaska might be different and Edgar Blatchford is staking out an unconventional approach. He’s running for the United States Senate in a race that includes Sen. Lisa Murkowski. She has already raised nearly $2.5 million in her re-election bid.

“The idea in this campaign was that no one wanted to file as a Democrat,” Blatchford said. Since then two other candidates, Richard Grayson and Ray Metcalfe, have been added to the August 16th ballot as Democrats. And the winner of the Democratic primary will go on to face at least three other candidates in the general election, a Republican, a Libertarian, and an Independent. Blatchford is Yupik and the only Native American running for the U.S. Senate. He has a resume worth considering: Mayor of Seward, Alaska, 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.

“We are close to our senators. Alaska is a small state and we have lots of contact with federal officials,” Blatchford said. “If we elect a Republican Senate, you have to presume it will be anti-Indian. Why would we elect a Republican senator who will have to fight her own caucus for basic Constitutional rights? If we elect Democrats, it would be a part of the progressive agenda, it would be a part of the deal. Why would we fight from the outside, when we can be on the inside and be a part of the agenda?”

Blatchford said Murkowski must come up with a rationale to convince her own Republican caucus to support Alaska Native issues. “Donald Trump is hard to explain away. We watch what’s happening, we see it all on social media, but somehow Alaskans don’t see the connection between Lisa Murkowski and the Republican party’s leader,” he said, adding that it’s time for her to disassociate herself with Trump.

“I am connecting with the people in rural Alaska” he says, and one of the reasons is that he is championing “Native American sovereignty; Alaska Natives addressing their own problems.”

But too often, he said, the first question folks ask: “How much money have you raised? Not whether I am a Democrat, Republican, or what I believe. I have nothing.”

In a video presentation on YouTube, Blatchford said he is “not interested” in raising millions of dollars from corporations and transnational interests that have a different agenda for Alaska. “I am interested in representing you in the United States Senate, only Alaskans.”

To get his message out Blatchford relies on social media where he spends “late hours” connecting with people around the state. He said he’s also driving to as many places he can and speaking in communities reachable by road.

A recent twist in Alaska politics is the idea of a candidate running as an independent instead of as a Democrat.  This strategy is worked for Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. And attorney Margaret Stock is pursuing that route in this election. There will also be a Libertarian on the ballot. So voters will have a choice between four candidates come November.

Blatchford said Democrats should not abandon their party. “This is a presidential year,” he said. “Why would you abandon the Democratic nominee for President of the United States who is so sensitive to minorities, the poor, and to Native Americans. We ought to grab on to her, promote her programs, and her progressive policies. I am embracing Hillary Clinton.”

Will social media be enough? We will learn the answer, at least in part, on Tuesday.

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

 

BlatchfordMeme.png

#NativeVote16 – Iron Eyes shakes up his campaign, selling more T-shirts to win

blackshirt.png
Chase Iron Eyes will send t-shirts to supporters for a $40 contribution to his campaign. (Campaign photo)

 

TrahantReports

Chase Iron Eyes told the Fargo Forum that he is letting his campaign consultants go and is trying to raise enough money to keep his campaign sustainable.

“I was convinced that I needed an advisor, and these advisors brought other advisors who all cost a great deal of money,”he told the Forum. “I didn’t get into this to drag my family through the whole process to end up in debt because of outside consultants.”

Raising money is the toughest challenge for any Native American who runs for office. Most of us just don’t have the kind of network where we can call lots of people up and ask for few hundred dollars. Over and over. Yet it’s an essential task because that money is used to pay staff, develop field operations (such as registering voters and getting them to the polls) and paying for campaign advertisements. It is what is required to be competitive. (HBO’s John Oliver did a great segment on the “call center” approach to campaigns.)

And the Democratic Party is not investing its resources into the Iron Eyes campaign. He’s on his own. (This is not unusual. One candidate told me the party said raise a few hundred thousand dollars … then you will get our money.) It’s that crazy circle: If you need the money, you won’t see it; but if you don’t need the money, it will be there. (Previous: The hidden history of why Native Americans lose elections)

Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is running against incumbent Rep. Kevin Cramer.

Cramer has raised $1.06 million compared to Iron Eyes’ $82,137. Most of Cramer’s funding comes from Political Action Committees, some $652,000.

On his new web site, Iron Eyes said this campaign has never been about money. “Money will make you forget we are a democracy dependent upon our direct involvement in that democracy,” according to the Iron Eyes for Congress page. “Money will make ND forget there are 3000 oil spills that big oil refuses to clean up & that a Republican controlled government says there is no money to clean up.”

Screenshot 2016-08-09 11.43.32
FEC.gov campaign finance report for House candidates in North Dakota.

It’s not uncommon for a campaign to reboot (and that’s true at almost every level of politics). Iron Eyes has a new web page, https://ironeyesforcongress.us/ and is building a sort of retail approach to the campaign. (Contribute $40, send a screenshot, and you’ll get a t-shirt.)

There is also a new social media push using the hashtag #FaceTheStorm. The idea is that people will tell their own stories about why they support Iron Eyes. Iron Eyes explains the idea this way on a video: “Faced with a dangerous blizzard on the Northern Plains, when snow storms are blasting everything that lives here, the buffalo do not hide. Because they have thicker fur, a thicker head, and thick skin, the way they are designed makes it more probable for them to survive if they face the storm. That is what we must do who value people over politics. We must come together and face the storm.”

How are other the other Native American candidates for federal office doing? The latest Federal Election Commission reports show how difficult a task raising money is for new candidates on the #NativeVote16 list. (Edgar Blatchford in Alaska is not yet reporting his campaign contributions.)

Republican Representatives Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin are incumbents so money is not a problem. Cole has raised $1.44 million and Mullin $1.3 million in their bids for re-election.

But in Arizona Republican Shawn Redd has raised a little more than $23,000 for his upcoming Aug. 30 primary for an open seat in the 1st congressional district.

To the south, Democrat Victoria Steele, running in Arizona’s 2nd congressional district, has raised nearly $200,000 while her opponent, Rep. Martha McSally, has tallied more than $5 million.

That same mismatch is occurring in Washington state. Former Colville Chairman Joe Pakootas has topped $166,000 from his fundraising efforts, but trails incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers who has received contributions of more than $2.5 million.

Denise Juneau is raising serious money. Her latest campaign report shows that she trails incumbent Rep. Ryan Zinke, but not as badly. Juneau’s contributions total more than $1.1 million to Zinke’s $3.5 million.

There are better ways to elect candidates. In Canada the party funds the candidates who earn a nomination. Other countries have public financing of campaigns so that every candidate has an equal shot at winning. That’s the direction we ought to be heading. But in this election, money still counts and Native candidates will need a boost in the form of many personal contributions from across Indian Country.

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

 

 

#NativeVote16 – Raising enough money to win seats in state legislatures

About-Us--element63
North Carolina Senate candidate Laurel Deegan-Fricke is running in the capital city of Raleigh. (Campaign photo)

 

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

There is a hundred dollars-a-plate fundraiser planned on August 21 for Laurel Deegan-Fricke. She’s a member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation and running in a highly competitive seat in Raleigh, North Carolina. Two years ago that race was decided by less than a thousand votes out of some 82,000 cast.

If you missed the fundraiser. Don’t worry. It won’t be Deegan-Fricke’s last. The “cost” of a Senate seat in North Carolina averages $173,576, according to The National Institute on Money in State Politics. So if you’re not doing the math that means some 1,735 dinners. Then again Raleigh is not average. Four years ago, according to Open Secrets, candidates spent nearly $600,000 trying to win that Senate seat. Two years ago the winning candidate spent $470,000 and the losing candidate a whopping $1.1 million.

How much time do you have to spend raising money? “All day and night with less than 100 days to election,” answers Deegan-Fricke. She says she needs $500,000 to stay competitive.

This seat in Raleigh, North Carolina, is the most expensive district on my spreadsheet of Native American candidates for legislatures.

Yet the issue of money is one reason why there are not more Native Americans serving in Congress, state legislatures and as  governors. Of course the problem is that any “outside” candidate has an uphill climb in this aspect of representation.  The fact is the system greatly favors those who are already in office. And money is one way to scare away potential challengers. In 2014 nearly a third of all Americans lived in states with an uncontested state senate race and more than forty percent in states with uncontested house races. (Previous: Hidden history of why Native Americans lose elections and what to do about it.)

There are solutions. One alternative is a system that includes full or partial public financing for campaigns. In an ideal setting, once a candidate meets the requirements to run, such as gathering signatures, and raising a limited amount, then state dollars are made available. A second system that’s used in many countries is that the political party funds its candidates. (In the U.S. it’s the opposite: You’re told by the party that you will have to raise “X” dollars before you will get funding. And usually the “X” is a big number.)

 

1469071559.jpg
Wenona Benally, candidate for Arizona House of Representatives in District 7. (Campaign photo)

Arizona and Minnesota both have public financing options. According to the National Conference of State Legislators,  “a candidate for state office in Arizona must raise $5 contributions from at least 200 people in order to qualify for the program. In return, the state provides the candidate with public money in an amount equal to the expenditure limit.” States cannot require candidates to participate in public financing and that limits the program’s effectiveness because some candidates can raise unlimited amounts. I should also mention that some of the most interesting experiments right now are occurring at the local level, such as Seattle’s new approach where voters are given vouchers to send to candidates.

Wenona Benally, Navajo, who’s running for the Arizona House in District 7, said, “qualifying as a ‘clean elections’ candidate and receiving public funds helps tremendously with paying for campaign activities. However, the process for qualifying as a CCEC candidate is very time-consuming & arduous.” She said the Secretary of State reviews every donor and if it cannot verify all of the data, then the form gets kicked out.

001_58A9272-Edit.jpg
Rep. Peggy Flanagan represents St. Louis Park and District 46. (Campaign photo)

Minnesota candidates for the Senate must raise $3,000 and House candidates $1,500 in order to receive public funds for their campaign. Rep. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Ojibwe, representing St. Louis Park and District 46, said she will receive $7,451 from public campaign financing. “I raised $50,000 for my race last year and I am trying to do the same this year,” she said. “I want to run a robust field campaign, but also want to make sure I can give money back to the party to take back the House.”

Successful fundraising is essential in any campaign.

As Rep. Flangan said: “I also think it’s important that candidates of color and Indigenous candidates are good fundraisers to demonstrate our power to folks in our caucus and in the state overall.”

Indeed that might be the most important point to remember. Yes, the challenges of fundraising are real, and a barrier to office for too many potential candidates. But if you look at the overall levels of representation, then state legislatures are where Native American candidates have been the most successful. So candidates are already raising what they need. That matters because it lays the groundwork for when more of those candidates choose to run for Congress. And “when” is the right word.

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

NativeXGR

Spreadsheets& data here. 

#NativeVote16 – The story is far from over: What’s next for Bernie Sanders?

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Vermont casts 22 votes for its senator, Bernie Sanders. A minute later, Sanders asks the rules be suspended and that Hillary Clinton be nominated by acclamation. And so the Bernie Sanders’ chapter comes to an end. The question is, “what’s next?”

Let’s explore this from a couple of different points of view.

What’s Sanders’ story going to be? What’s he going to do to advance causes that are progressive? And, more important for my readers, what will he do to improve life in Indian Country?

It’s interesting to explore what happens to senators after they run for president. Most disappear. Some fifty senators have run and lost (only Obama has won the office in recent times) so the “what’s next?” question is actually the norm.

One candidate who came up short was George McGovern from South Dakota. His landslide loss to Richard Nixon did not define his legacy because he recruited so many young people to his cause. Bill Clinton is a beneficiary of the McGovern campaign. McGovern, like Sanders, was not particularly interested in Native American issues before his presidential campaign. But in 1972 campaign McGovern called for the complete restructuring of the Bureau of Indian Affairs either as a White House program or as a cabinet-level agency.

Ted Kennedy is a another example of how someone can build a progressive legacy after his failed White House bid. “Freed at last of the expectation that he should and would seek the White House, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself fully to his day job in the Senate, where he had already led the fight for the 18-year-old vote, the abolition of the draft, deregulation of the airline and trucking industries, and the post-Watergate campaign finance legislation,” The New York Times wrote in his obituary. “In the years after his failed White House bid, Mr. Kennedy also established himself as someone who made “lawmaker” mean more than a word used in headlines to describe any member of Congress.”

Imagine what Sanders the “lawmaker” could do. He could be the architect for many new initiatives, better Indian health or education funding, or, basically taking the best of the Democratic Party Platform and making is so. This is what he told Deborah Parker on a live Facebook feed this afternoon: “We are very proud of the work that Deborah as done (writing the platform) … and we will make sure that the language is implemented.”

It’s clear that Sanders travels to Indian Country changed him. His observations and experiences are bound to stir reform. As Jane Sanders also told Parker today: “He didn’t win the presidency, but he’s a senator.” And now, perhaps, a lawmaker. A lawmaker that will be most effective if he has an ally in the White House.

There is one more thing I would like to see Sanders do: Invest his time and considerable fundraising ability in helping elect five Native American Democrats to Congress. He could especially make a difference in the next few days by raising money for Victoria Steele in Arizona and Joe Pakootas in Washington state. These two candidates have primary elections in August. Both would make great members of Congress (and allies for any Sanders’ legislative agenda).

Ideally Congress is only the start. What about a Sanders’ grassroots movement that supports Native progressive candidates for legislatures, county commissions, and city governments.

What about Sanders’ supporters? (Some of whom continue to maintain they will never support Hillary Clinton. Several are even posting how disgusted they are with Sanders for giving up too easily.) So the options are: Don’t vote in November; vote for Donald J. Trump; vote for a third party candidate; or vote for Clinton.

Staying home and voting for Trump are essentially the same option. A Trump presidency is not the same as Clinton.

Three stark differences:

* Clinton would tip the scales toward climate action; Trump would favor oil, gas and coal.
* Clinton would boost Indian health programs and Medicaid expansion; Trump promises repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.
* She would build on the legacy of President Obama; Trump promises a rollback of the past eight years which he calls a failure.

On top of all that: There is a vacancy on the Supreme Court and conservatives would be eager to reshape abortion law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and tribal jurisdiction.

What about voting for Jill Stein and the Green Party or the Gary Johnson-Bill Weld Libertarian Ticket?

Philosophically that makes a lot of sense. I’d really like to see third parties be included in the presidential debates and the national conversation. This country ought to have more than two governing parties. But how do you get there and how does it impact the prospect of a Trump presidency? The fact is only two parties are at present competitive. It’s a wild card vote. In some states, say, Montana, or Utah, it could help Clinton pull off a surprise win. But in Florida or other swing states it’s really an unknown about where the votes would come from (Trump or Clinton). Down the road this is one of those structural electoral problems we need to fix. Our vote should count if we go Green. But not in 2016.

Sanders said as much today. He’s quoted in The Washington Post saying, “If we were in Europe right now, in Germany or elsewhere, the idea of coalition politics of different parties coming together — you’ve got a left party, you’ve got a center-left party, coming together against the center-right party. That’s not unusual. That happens every day. We don’t have that. We have and have had [two parties] for a very long period of time — and I know a little bit about this, as the longest serving independent member of Congress.”

Will  the people who followed Sanders do that once again. Most will. Some won’t. (My first question to those who say, #neverhillary is where do you live? In some states you really do have a free vote. But in a swing state? No.)

So there the Democrats have a nominee — and it’s not Bernie Sanders. Yet he has chapters to add to his story.

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

 

#NativeVote16 – The political drama of Carlyle Begay sort of fizzles out


Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

I have been fascinated by the candidacy of Carlyle Begay for Congress. It’s been quite the political drama: A young state senator who first earned his office with an appointment, wins election as a Democrat, then says he’s a Republican, then he gives up a shot at re-election to his office, to run for Congress. 

What a story. But there is more. In the middle of a campaign, his wife, Candace Begody-Begay says she’ll run for his senate senate post, has to resign her job as editor of the Navajo Times because of an obvious conflict of interest, and then fails to make the ballot because she didn’t collect enough legal signatures. 

Instead of good ending, we’re only at a chapter that sort of just fizzled out.

Monday Begay ended his campaign and endorsed Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu in the GOP primary.

Begay’s story was interesting because it was more about tactics than ideology. Yes, he may be, probably is, a true believer in Republican principles (though in the era of Donald Trump you have to ask, which Republican principles?). He could have tried to sell his GOP vision to Navajo voters running for re-election. My bet: He would have been crushed. Navajo voters overwhelmingly vote for Democrats — especially in a race that’s a contest between one Navajo politician and another. (Previous: Can one family build a Navajo Republican Party?)

So Begay picked another route.

Arizona’s first congressional seat has the most Native American voters of any distict in the country. Nearly a quarter. So by running for Congress, he challenged the status quo (especially within the party). Republicans would have been smart to pull out the stops and back Begay because it would have created a new paradigm: Would Navajo voters opt for a Navajo or a Democrat with a standard resume? It would have been a tough sell, but with resources, and a little luck, the Republicans could have owned this seat for a decade or more. But by the time Begay entered the race there were already a slew of Republicans who had money and the resources to win the primary. So game over.

(To be fair: There are so other Navajos still in this race, Republican Shawn Redd and Democrat Kayto Sullivan, but neither has the experience nor the potential resources of a Begay candidacy.)

Let’s be clear about this congressional seat: It will have Native representation. The only question is when. 

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

#NativeVote16 – Only three vote margin and too few signatures to run

 

52944_107015102697891_7667119_o
Glacier County Commissioner Michael DesRosier (Photo via Facebook)

Counting every vote (again)

TrahantReports

Every election there is new evidence that, yes, your vote does count. (This week, for example, there has been stories from voters who voted for the United Kingdom to leave Europe only because they thought their vote did not count. Whoops.)

Now a race in  Blackfeet Country is being contested over three votes.

On the night of Montana’s primary election, Glacier County Commissioner Michael DeRosier appeared to have been defeated in the primary by challenger Jamie Evans by 42 votes.

But about a week later, after 131 provisional ballots were counted, the lead changed and DeRosier appeared to have won. On Wednesday the County Commission (absent DeRosier) will witness a recount tally to see if DeRosier’s three-vote lead continues to hold. Stay tuned. — Mark Trahant

Candace Begody-Begay fails to reach ballot

Former Navajo Times editor Candace Begody-Begay failed to quality for the November ballot for the Arizona state Senate. According to The Arizona Republic: “Not only were 59 percent of her signatures invalid, she failed to appear at a Friday court hearing despite assurances to state officials that she would be there.” The newspaper said under Arizona law she cannot run as a write-in because of a “sore loser” law.

Her husband, Carlyle Begay, remains a candidate for Congress in the Republican primary. Two other Navajo candidates, Shawn Redd, also a Republican, and Kayto Sullivan, a Democrat, are seeking that congressional seat.

Begody-Begay’s problem collecting signatures highlights the very problem for any Navajo running in a Republican primary. Even with support from Navajo voters, few of those voters are registered as Republicans or as unaffiliated voters. (Previous: Can one family build a Navajo Republican party?) Begody-Begay told the Navajo Times that she could not attend the court hearing because of a family emergency. “It’s safe to say there will be very little change in our district,” she told the Times. “The voters are the ones who are going to have to live with the consequences.”

Then again it’s hard to blame someone else for the requirements of actually running a campaign, such as gathering signatures, raising money, and doing what’s necessary to be a competitive candidate. — Mark Trahant

 

 

 

 

#NativeVote16 – The screwy presidential primary season is almost over

govbrown-overview-photo.2e16d0ba.fill-1078x360
Hillary Clinton won the Virgin Island primary on Saturday. How screwy are US elections? Islanders have a vote in the primary, but not one in the general election. (Campaign photo)

Votes that count & those that don’t

Mark Trahant /TrahantReports.com

Hillary Clinton won the Virgin Island primary on Saturday. According to The Washington Post, Clinton may pick up as many as six of the seven delegates from the Virgin Island (plus the five super delegates). Sunday a similar election occurs in Puerto Rico.

But here’s the thing. Neither the Virgin Islands nor Puerto Rico get a vote for president in November. The parties open voting for the primary, but the Constitution gives neither of the two territories any electoral college votes. So this weekend is it, the people’s only chance to have a say.

Does the United States have a screwy presidential election process or what?

Puerto Rico has a slightly smaller population than Indian Country. The Virgin Islands has about 105,000 people and is significantly smaller than the Navajo or Cherokee nations. As I have pointed out: Indian Country ought to have a voice in the primary election. And the parties could make that happen now.

Then, the modern primary system makes no sense.  Especially when you add in the nonsense of a caucus (a neighborhood meeting that limits participation to those who can spend the time) or even worse a “beauty contest” where voters go to the polls and cast ballots that don’t mean anything such as in Washington state. (Previous: Another election day: Who does Indian Country back?)

Part of the problem is that today most voters are independent. Forty percent of us don’t register as a Republican or Democrat. And at the state level there are alternatives that recognize that trend and actually give independent voters more sway.

That will happen Tuesday in California. Sort of.

California’s presidential primary is old school. Voters had to pick a party and register last month in order for their votes to count. It will be too late to make that party preference choice on election day.

So many people will go to the polls expecting to vote for Bernie Sanders. Only some will find out that they are registered as “unaffiliated” or independent and cannot vote in the Democratic Party Primary unless they specifically ask for a Democratic ballot. (Then this might not be a problem because the state reports registration is breaking records. Perhaps voters understand that yes, there is paperwork required in order to vote.) For his part Sanders has raised many of the problems within the Democratic primary, such as the use of elected officials, or super delegates, in the primary process. But the problem, the breakdown, is much larger than just with the Democrats.

But in California’s Senate primary voters are allowed to pick any candidate from any party. It’s called the top-two or a jungle primary. So there are 35 candidates, including 12 Republicans, and yet it’s likely that the top two finishers in that will both be Democrats, Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange.

The problem with the jungle primary is that Republicans will essentially be shut out from now until November, losing a voice. And any democratic system ought to be about making sure that citizens, all citizens, have a say.

One proposed reform gets rid of primaries all together and replaces them with ranked voting or Instant Runoff Voting. This system lets every candidate run during the general election, but allows voters a mechanism for second, third, and additional choices. Critics say the problem with ranked voting is that it’s confusing. Voters must make multiple decisions. But that’s not been the result after actual elections. The city of San Francisco’s instant runoff system increased both voter participation and representation from ethnic groups. (Imagine an IRV system for this presidential year: All of the Republicans who started the campaign would probably still be on the ballot. Same for the Democrats. And, for that matter, the smaller Libertarian and Green parties.)

Perhaps instant runoff is not the solution. But something must change. The United States needs experiments with election methods. There needs to be a transition away from the screwy to something else. No system will be perfect. But any reform ought to at least be fair.

Soon we will also be able to observe what happens in Canada as it begins it reform. Canada’s Liberal Party promised improving election mechanics and Parliament is supposed to consider changes as soon as this December.

The election, more than any other in recent memory, exposed the weakness about how we vote. Some ballots count. Others don’t. It’s not democratic.

And speaking of that: This Tuesday’s election is not the last primary. The District of Columbia will vote next week. And unlike the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico residents of the District do get to vote for president now and again in November. But vote for a member of Congress? Nope. It’s just one more example about how the machinery of democracy is broken.

 

 

 

 

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? One time use is free for web, publication or broadcast.

Please credit: Mark Trahant / Trahantreports.com

 

#NativeVote16 – Making little dollars count; roundup of Native Democratic congressional candidates

13198598_943773479071871_3551147983787374629_o-2
Victoria Steele on The Sam Kelley Show about her prospects for winning Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. (Facebook photo)

TrahantReports

This week a small contribution to a political campaign is worth a lot more.

Arizona’s Victoria Steele has two donors who are matching small contributions made until Friday before midnight. “One donor will match all $25.00 donations and the other will match all $10.00 donations,” a Steele campaign news release said. “Of course, you can always donate more if you like!”

Steele is one of at least eight Native Americans who are running for Congress. She is Seneca.

I think Little Dollars — donations under $25 — ought to be one of the most important metrics for a political campaign. To me it shows support from ordinary people who are giving up a dinner out to support a candidate. (Previous: Little Dollars could turn the world of politics upside down.)

Steele opens her campaign office in Tucson this week, Thursday at 5:30 pm.

***

Email Banner Logo

In Montana, Denise Juneau’s campaign said it has been officially added to the “Red  to Blue” program “signaling Montana’s House seat is truly up for grabs in November.”

“Denise Juneau has a powerful personal story, impressive record serving the people and students of Montana, and experience winning statewide,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D–NM) said. “Denise is building an impressive grassroots organization and has proven that she will have the resources needed to execute a winning campaign. Denise is ready to fight on behalf of all the people of Montana in Washington, keep them safe, and ensure the economy works for everyone.”

Juneau is Mandan and Hidatsa as well as Blackfeet. Hashtag: #TeamJuneau

“The excitement and momentum for our campaign can be found in every corner of Montana,” Campaign Manager Lauren Caldwell said. “For far too long Montana’s only seat in the U.S. House has been occupied by someone working on behalf of giant corporations and special interests instead of Montana families. That will change this November when Montanans send Denise to Washington.”

***

13248599_1048108441944541_4817186729132834810_o
Joe Pakootas (Campaign photo via Facebook) with his candidate filing papers.

In Washington, Joe Pakootas filed his candidate paperwork. He posted on Facebook this week: “It’s official. I am now a registered candidate for the 5th Congressional District in Washington State. Look for my name on your primary ballot in August!” Look for the hashtag #GoJoe

Pakootas is Colville and a former chairman of the confederated tribes. He recently wrote: “I’m running for Congress to unify our party, district, and cities. I’m humbly asking for your support this year, but it’s not just about me. It’s about you. Speak up, make your opinions known, and get involved. There’s simply too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines. Turnout will make the difference.”

***

profile
Chase Iron Eyes

Chase Iron Eyes is out and about in North Dakota introducing himself to voters. On May 24 in Fargo he will host a meet and greet at the Dem-NPL Headquarters. Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

“We’re building this campaign from the ground up. It’s going to be a tough race. But like the buffalo that stands facing an oncoming storm, North Dakota Democrats are strong and ready for a tough fight,” according to a campaign Facebook post. Follow the hashtag, #TeamIronEyes

That’s what the Democratic candidates are doing right now. My next report will look at the Republicans. — Mark Trahant

For regular #NativeVote16 updates follow trahantreports.com On Facebook.com/TrahantReports On Twitter: @TrahantReports