#NativeVote16 – August is a make or break month for three candidates

Joe Pakootas on the campaign trail in Washington state. (Campaign photo)

Pakootas: “Winning requires a big effort”

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

August begins with eight Native American candidates for the U.S. House and Senate. But that number is likely to shrink when the month comes to a close. Three candidates are on the ballot: Democrats Joe Pakootas (Colville) in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, Victoria Steele (Seneca) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District; and, Republican Shawn Redd (Navajo) in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District.

The first of these primary elections is in Washington. Votes will be counted on Tuesday, Aug. 2. It’s mostly a state that votes by mail. And, it’s a state with a blanket, or a top-two primary. That means the first two candidates will go on the November ballot regardless of party. There are five candidates, two who “prefers Republicans,” two who “prefers Democrats,” including Pakootas, and a candidate who “prefers Libertarian.” (The use of “prefers” is because the parties have no way to nominate candidates in this system; so anyone can claim any label they want. This language was a compromise.)

Pakootas asked for help from his supporters by email last week: “Winning this election will require a BIG effort! I need your vote. But I also need the votes of your friends, family members, and neighbors. Statistics show that a person will be more likely to vote if they know their friend has already voted. Let’s get all our neighbors engaged in the civic process, it’s just too important to be complacent. Please don’t let someone else make this decision for you! Voting is incredibly important and worth a short conversation. All you have to do is ask one simple question: ‘Have you voted for Joe?'”

Pakootas is the former chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes and later chief executive of the tribes’ enterprises. In that job, he revived 13 money-losing tribal businesses. The University of Washington awarded him the Bradford Award, given annually to a minority businessman, for his leadership. (Previous: Six Seats Native Candidates Can Win to Flip Congress.)

Pakootas main primary opponent is Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She’s a member of the Republican House leadership team. Two years ago Pakootas unsuccessfully challenged McMorris Rodgers for the seat. In that race he was outspent by a 12:1 margin. This time around Pakootas has more resources, but not nearly enough. As of a July 13 report, McMorris Rodgers has raised more than $2.4 million to Pakootas’ $166,729. (That’s more than a 16:1 difference.) Northwest Tribes are a significant source of Pakootas’ fundraising, including his own tribe, Colville, plus Quinault, Puyallup, Spokane, Tulalip, Yakama, Jamestown S’Kallam, Swinomish, and Chehalis.

Should he win Tuesday, Pakootas will need more money for the fall campaign to be competitive with McMorris Rodgers.

And one of the issues for any Republican is how they stand on Donald Trump (so odd, I know, usually a party’s nominee already matches the philosophy of its members). McMorris Rodgers, like many elected Republicans, did not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. However in May she endorsed Trump saying it’s essential to respect the will of Republican primary voters.

From ABC News: “Mr. Trump won millions of supporters by speaking his mind honestly; calling out the dysfunction in Washington, D.C.; and talking outside the politically correct box,” McMorris Rodgers said. “In the months ahead, he will have to earn the presidency by demonstrating that he has the temperament for the job and plans to empower every American to pursue a future of opportunity and freedom.”

Every Monday Pakootas posts about his policy differences with McMorris Rodgers with the hashtag, #McMorrisMonday. Recently he wrote: “We must not forget that OUR Representative has endorsed Donald Trump. We’ve all heard the racist, misogynistic, prejudice, hateful, uneducated, and fear-mongering comments that Donald Trump has made. My opponent must now navigate within a culture that perpetuates and even promotes this behavior. She says that Donald Trump “Owes it to our country to treat everyone respectfully and to build an inclusive coalition.” How is it possible for my opponent to maintain her stated values while also supporting Mr. Trump’s toxic ideology? In light of the serious issues that our country is currently facing, do these hateful values and destructive policies really represent our District?”

Tuesday’s primary will be the first chance to see what the impact of Trump might be on races other than the presidential contest.

Democrat Victoria Steele makes a pitch to a voter in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.  The primary is Aug. 30 and absentee ballots will go out in the mail this week. (Photo via campaign’s Facebook page.)

Trump Effect could propel Steele to Congress (if she has money)

The Trump Effect might be even more important to Arizona’s Victoria Steele.

Her opponent, Rep. Martha McSally, is a Republican who will not endorse Trump. She told The Tucson Weekly: “I have never endorsed a politician in my life and I’m not going to start now, so you can ask me for the next three and a half months, but it’s not happening. “Who we each vote for is our responsibility as a citizen and a voter and, in that role, have a vote just like you have a vote and I personally believe that is between me, God and the ballot box.”

Steele said that it took McSally half a year to reach that conclusion. “When he mocked and mimicked a disabled man – she looked the other way,” Steele said in a news release. “When he accused Mexican people of being rapists and murders – she looked the other way. When he made fun of prominent women for having menstrual period or being disgusted for using the restroom – she looked the other way.”

Steele said the incumbent could not “summon the courage to stand up for people that Trump attacks.”

However when it comes to money McSally is close to the top of the list. She’s raised $5.6 million so far compared to Steele’s $195,708. Even more important, at least this month, Steele trails Democrat Matt Heinz in the money race. He’s raised $815,974.

Unlike Pakootas, Steele has not had significant support from tribes or tribal enterprises. Sixty percent of her fundraising is from individual donors, often in small amounts of $25 or $50.

So why are tribes not investing in a Steele candidacy? Unfortunately too many tribes and tribal enterprises do politics the same way as other “special interest groups.” That means investing in candidates who are already elected or likely to win. Investing in our own is not good politics. Or so they tell me. The only way Steele can get the money to be competitive especially in the next 30 days is for individual tribal members to step up and contribute or better a few tribes. (Previous: The Hidden History of Why Native Americans Lose Elections.)

The case for Steele is clear. What we need in Congress is a “caucus” that is made up of Native people, similar to the Congressional Black Caucus. (There is a Native American caucus now, but it’s more of an interest group rather than an indigenous network.) The only way that’s going to happen is for people to rally around Native candidates when they run. Perhaps it’s not good business, at least in the way that modern campaigns operate, but it is the right thing to do when you believe that Indian Country needs more voices in Congress.

There is another reason to back Steele in this election: Donald Trump. Her district may be only about 2 percent Native American, but the fastest growing group are Latinos. The group, One Arizona is hoping that Latino registration will top one million in the state before election day. Pew Research says the Arizona 2nd Congressional District says eligible Latino voters are nearly 22 percent of the population. That alone is enough to change the outcome of a race that was won by less than a thousand votes out of 220,000 cast.

Republican Shawn Redd campaigning in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. (Campaign photo via Facebook)

Demographics challenge for a Navajo Republican

Navajo candidate Shawn Redd has raised only $23,549 and is running in a crowded Republican primary. State Sen. Carlyle Begay dropped out of that race in late June.

Redd’s biggest challenge is running as a a self-described conservative Republican when most Navajos are Democrats. In order to vote in the Arizona primary, voters either have to register as Republicans or be unaffiliated.

Arizona’s first congressional seat has the most Native American voters of any district in the country.

Redd, for his part, is not running away from Trump. He recently posted on Facebook support of his party’s nominee. “Elizabeth Warren is a Fraud and Trump has every right to say it! The NY Times didn’t like me telling them that and cut the interview short. I feel strongly about this issue and was glad to voice my opinion to the liberal media even if they didn’t print much of it! Real Native American Women deserve the opportunities given to Sen. Warren that she felt her high cheek bones entitled her to! ‪#‎VoteRedd‬ ‪#‎Trump‬.”

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 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 mechanics of reaching Indian Country voters

Amy Croover is the Native Vote Director for the Montana Democratic Party. (Photo via press release)
Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

First the news: Montana Democrats hired Amy Croover as director of the Native Vote program. A Democratic Party press release said her task is to increase the number of Native American voters.

The message is significant. Montana Democrats are investing real resources to give American Indian voters a greater say. “As a country and as a state, we’ve moved the needle in the right direction when it comes to our cherished Native American communities and culture, but more work needs to be done,” said Nancy Keenan, executive director of the state’s Democrats. 

Croover has a solid resume. She’s a Ho-Chunk tribal member and has worked with Montana tribes. She’s worked with young people at the Salish Kootenai College. And she was Sen. Jon Tester’s Native American liaison for seven years. “I jumped at the chance to be a part of the team that elects Denise Juneau as the first Native American woman to Congress,” Croover said. “I believe that when Democrats govern, Indian Country wins.”

This is a nice turn of the phrase. It’s a flip of what Denise Juneau often says in her stump speech, when Indians vote, Democrats win.

Now the context. At its core politics is about two things: Policy and mechanics. Policy is the ideas, often the stuff that happens after elections;  mechanics is how policy gets made.

Another way to think about the difference: Policy is usually what politicians talk about. Mechanics is the work that’s actually done by people whose names we may never know.

Political parties (both Republicans and Democrats) talk a lot about American Indian and Alaska Native policy. President Nixon’s 1970 message that declared an end to termination and the promotion of self-determination was a policy prescription. But the mechanics of that pronouncement was left up to Congress, largely, Forrest Gerard working with Sen. Henry Jackson and Franklin Ducheneaux, who was Rep. Morris Udall’s counsel in the House. The idea was not enough. Someone had to do the work.

It’s the same with elections. It’s one thing to lay out an American Indian policy, most candidates who have an interest in Indian Country do just that, but it’s another step entirely to invest in the mechanics. 

This is important because no matter how many of us want to vote for Denise Juneau (or any of the seven other Native federal candidates) that will not happen unless we have registered first. The process is mechanical. Register voters. Then count them. Find out where the numbers could be higher and then register more people. Repeat as often as necessary.

It’s the same step by step process for voting. (I especially like absentee voting because it’s a way to bank and count actual votes.)

And this election is the right one to test the mechanical approach to democracy in Indian Country because there are so many Native candidates on the ballot. The incentives are aligned for people to vote for Denise Juneau as well as Native Democratic candidates for the legislature. 

Other states have seen initiatives to improve the mechanics of the Native vote. Two years ago, for example, Sen. Mark Begich made Alaska Native voters a key element of his unsuccessful bid for re-election. But. The thing is. Begich made the election a lot closer than it would have been had he not made the effort. And, his staff work in the many villages probably helped elect Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot. The mechanics paid off.

The most common complaint I hear from Native candidates (especially former candidates who have lost) is that they get no help from their state or national party. That needs to change because in the years to come Indian Country will need more investment in the mechanical side of politics. As the demographics of the nation shift, there will be more and more states and districts where the Native vote will make the difference. But for that to happen, someone has to do the work.

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 – Graphic look at Native American candidates for US House, Senate

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Native American candidates for the U.S. House and Senate. If you’d rather … Spreadsheet is here.




#NativeVote16 – Graphic look at Native candidates for state legislatures

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What does the election landscape look like? This. I am also updating the spreedsheet that lists all of these candidates. I will post as soon as I have confirmed a couple of races. — Mark Trahant



#NativeVote16 – Three lessons Clinton could learn from Sanders

Clinton’s big night: Winning New Jersey, South Dakota, New Mexico, California, and most likely, the nomination. (Campaign photo by Elizabeth Chen.)

And one important lesson for Indian Country

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports
There are three lessons that the Hillary Clinton campaign could learn from team Bernie Sanders. And there is one critical lesson from Clinton that could help Indian Country win more elections. 

A little background first.

I have been writing about political campaigns for forty-plus years. I’ve seen an evolution in how presidential candidates reach out to Indian Country.

Early on the connection with Indian Country was mostly seen as a constituent service. Candidates visited. Showed their face. Even said vote for me. Many even published nifty policy papers written by folks who work every day on Native issues. But there was no real connection.

My first experience with that was in 1976 at a press conference with the new President-elect Jimmy Carter. At a press conference I asked him how reserved tribal water rights would fit into a Carter water policy? He looked at me and then said that was a question for the Interior Secretary. Next.

That started to change when Jesse Jackson ran for president. I remember him walking into the Navajo Nation Council and he wasn’t just there. He was present. The response from the tribal delegates was just as real and emotional. There was a connection.

Barack Obama did Jackson one better when he campaigned on the Crow Nation in May of 2008. And that connection paid off: Obama has had one of the most successful presidencies in history and that’s especially true when it measure what has occurred in the area of Native American policy. 

Has it been a perfect eight years? Of course not. But compared to other administrations — even good ones — this has been a remarkable ride. Obama delivered on his promises. Period.

So with that history fresh in my mind I think Bernie Sanders raised the level of expectation to an even higher standard.

What made the Sanders’ campaign so remarkable is that it took what had been a special event — a visit to Crow, for example — and it made it a routine part of the campaign. When a Sanders event was near Indian Country (or better within a tribal nation) everyone from the candidate to his staff knew what to do. 

This is how campaigns should be run. It conveys a level of respect to the first people of this continent in a way that defies history.

How would this have translated into policy? That we will never know. Unless. Unless Secretary Clinton picks up the best elements of the Sanders campaign and adds something more. This is entirely possible. She does have a history in Indian Country that goes back a long time, at least as far back as her legal services work, and with the right people to help her, she could find that next level.

So here are three things I’d like to see the Clinton campaign do.

First: When campaigning in or near Indian Country make sure the protocol is public. The fact is that Clinton met with tribal leaders in Nevada and Iowa long before this election became contested. But the meetings were private. I understand that it was a nod to tribal sovereignty — and that’s important — but it does not generate a broader base of support in Indian Country. In the general election it would be smart for Clinton to not only campaign in Indian Country but to make sure that tribal leadership is part of the dialogue. (To be fair: There was some of that, but it was not communicated well.)

Second: Hire Nicole Willis. Now. The great thing about her role with the Sanders’ campaign is that she had access and authority. It may not seem like Indian Country is a big enough constituent group for such a high level post, but it’s a powerful metaphor that goes beyond politics. 

Third: Identify Native American surrogates and let them talk. At various points the Sanders campaign did this with Deborah Parker and Tara Houska. This is important because there ought to be a face from Indian Country. This has started unofficially, especially on Facebook and within tribal communities, but it ought to be a larger part of the campaign apparatus. I’d love to see Native voices arguing with a Trump surrogate on MSNBC or even Fox. Clinton has a fabulous team of advisers, but they are not public. They should be.

And finally the Clinton campaign did something last night that Indian Country should make our election cornerstone, early voting. As Harry Enten wrote for fivethirtyeight.com: “Clinton built a tremendous lead in the state from early mail-in votes, and she never relinquished it. Just after midnight, Clinton was up by 26 percentage points with over a million votes counted. By the time all the early vote was in, she was able to take that advantage up to about 400,000. That margin stayed remarkably consistent as more and more of the in-person vote was tabulated. In other words, Sanders fought Clinton to a draw among voters who cast their ballot at the polls yesterday, but the damage had been done by early voters …”

Imagine if Indian Country voters did that. No forgetting to get the polls. No last minute snags. Just votes that are banked in advance. (This can’t be done everywhere, but where it can, it’s a powerful tool.) We can do damage.

We’re going to hear a lot in the next few days about the “lesser of two evils.” I don’t like that phrase. It reminds me of a truth about writing: perfect is the enemy of good. I have disagreements with every candidate, even some passionate splits, but I also look for areas where we agree. 

It’s true that politics is about choices, but it’s also about the team of people that come together to make a candidate successful. Look at those who are hired by Clinton from Indian Country and you’ll see a wealth of talented people who are ready to govern. Especially if given the chance.

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 – Deborah Parker named to Democrat’s platform committee

  Deborah Parker speaking at a Senate press conference about the Violence Against Women Act. (YouTube photo)


First the news. Then the context. 

The news is that Deborah Parker has been named to the Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee. That’s both remarkable and important. She was  appointed by Bernie Sanders. 

As Nicole Willis posted on Facebook: “I am beyond pleased that American Indian and Alaska Native issues are such a high priority for this campaign– so much that one of our platform spots has gone to Deborah Parker!” (Willis is the National Tribal Outreach Director for the Sanders’ campaign.)

Now the context. 

Every four years political parties craft carefully worded statements.  They outline exactly what the party hopes to achieve over the next four years should they win the White House and Congress. These are aspirational documents, not a governing document or political legislation. 

So the way it works is that usually the party’s nominee selects the platform committee. That’s exactly what will happen on the Republican side as Donald Trump will start to put his stamp on the Republicans campaign.

But the Democrats are not there yet. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a sizable lead, but not quite enough delegates to win. And Bernie Sanders is in that tough spot of trying to catch up to Clinton with fewer and fewer delegates up for grabs. When there is no nominee, usually, the party appoints the convention committee posts. 

On Monday the party picked another route. Clinton was awarded 6 seats; Sanders 5; and the remaining 4 will be appointed by the party itself. 

Politico call this a “concession” to Sanders because his supporters will be able to influence the party to be more progressive on a range of issues, such as a higher minimum wage. 

Parker, a former vice chairman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, was an early supporter of Sanders. Parker has much to offer any platform committee. First, she understands and can communicate the relationship between tribes and the federal government and what might be possible in terms of improvement. Second, Parker was a critical voice in the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act. She adds expertise and credibility.

Four years ago, the Democratic Party Platform included this section on Tribal Sovereignty:

American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are sovereign self-governing communities, with a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States. President Obama and Democrats in Congress, working with tribes, have taken unprecedented steps to resolve long-standing conflicts, finally coming to a resolution on litigation—some dating back nearly 100 years—related to management of Indian trust resources, administration of loan programs, and water rights. 

The President worked with Democrats to pass the HEARTH Act to promote greater tribal self- determination and create jobs in Indian Country. The Affordable Care Act permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve care for Native Americans. Democrats enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act, support expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to include greater protection for women on tribal lands, and oppose versions of the Violence Against Women Act that do not include these critical provisions. We will continue to honor our treaty and trust obligations and respect cultural rights, including greater support for American Indian and Alaska Native languages. Democrats support maximizing tribal self-governance, including efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.

In addition to Parker, other members of the Democratic Platform Commitee:

Bernie Sanders’ appointments:

* Dr. Cornell West;

* Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota);

*Bill McKibben (Author, expert on climate change);

* James Zogby (Arab American Institute)

Hillary Clinton’s appointments:

*Ambassador Wendy Sherman;

*Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress);

*Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Ohio State);

*Carol Browner (Former EPA head);

*Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois);

*Paul Booth (union leader);

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has endorsed Clinton, will head the committee. The DNC also named Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California; Former Rep. Howard Berman, and a former CEO, Bonnie Schaefer.
— Mark Trahant

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

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


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.


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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.”


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.”


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







#NativeVote16 – Donald Trump is good news, or really good news, for Native Democrats


Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, endorsed Victoria Steele and serves as one of her campaign co-chairs. (Campaign photo via Facebook.) Latinos make up one out of five voters in Steele’s district.


Latino voter registration is growing fast

Mark Trahant


Let’s start with an understatement: Donald Trump is not the usual Republican Party nominee for president. There is no script for the months ahead; Trump is as much a reality show as a legitimate politician. His rallies are chaotic. His issues are all over the map in terms of ideology. And he strikes fear into many Republicans running for other offices because of his rhetoric, especially about Mexicans, Muslims and women.

Nowhere does this craziness surface more than in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.

Victoria Steele is no longer running against incumbent Martha McSally. Now she’s running against the Trump/McSally agenda. (Previous: Six Native Candidates can Win to Flip Congress. And: How little dollars could turn the world of politics upside down.)

A recent Steele campaign email put it this way:

“It was an easy question for Martha McSally. Do you or do you not support Donald Trump? After ducking the question for weeks, her team finally responded … but with the ‘Washington two-step’

Martha McSally’s spokesman said this:  “We’re in the middle of a nomination process, and Martha is interested in seeing that process play out. Right now she is focused on doing the best job she can to represent the people of Southern Arizona and make sure their voices are heard.”

I did not see anything in there about if she supports Donald Trump, do you?”

Now that GOP primary process is over and Trump is the presumptive nominee? McSally’s web site makes no mention of Trump. Nor is she speaking out about Trump (as few other Republicans have done).

“It feels like such good news,” Steele told me last week. “It’s either bad for Martha McSally or really bad. She’s been given many opportunities to speak out and renounce his horrible statements, what he has said about women, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims. Her silence speaks volumes.”
Steele says it’s one thing for McSally to not endorse Trump, but she is campaigning as a “moderate” and that’s why she should call out Trump on his hateful statements.

Trump could be a significant problem in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. There are some 528,000 eligible voters in the district and of that number, more than 113,00 are Latino. That’s about 1 out of five voters. And that number could grow. Significantly. According to Pew Research Hispanic Trends report nearly 58 percent of the Latino electorate is eligible to vote. There is data to suggest that already more Latinos are registering to vote because of the fear of a Donald Trump presidency.

But the extraordinary thing about Trump is that he could also inspire other voters to register and turn out. Against him, that is. Trump has a range of controversial statements from his call to ban all immigration by Muslims to how he describes women.

One recent Gallup poll shows that seven-out-ten women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

So Steele is not the only Native American candidate who could benefit from Trump as the Republican Party’s standard-bearer.


Other Native American candidates impacted by Trump

Joe Pakootas in Washington state is running in the 5th district against Cathy McMorris Rodgers. McMorris Rodgers has a position similar to House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying she’s not ready to endorse the presumptive nominee. She told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that she would like to question Trump about some of the statements he has made about women in the past. (Spreadsheet, fusion table: Eight Native Americans running for Congress.)

Washington’s 5th district is about 6.2 percent Latino. But that is an underrepresented group because only about 4.1 percent are registered to vote. So a registration push could bring new voters into the process.

The numbers are interesting for the Native American candidates running as Republicans. In Oklahoma, Incumbent Representatives Tom Cole and MaryWayne Mullin are running in districts that are increasingly Latino. Cole’s district now shows 6 percent Latino voters and 9 percent of the district’s population. Cole told The Daily Oklahoman last year that Trump’s problem is “he has is he has very high negative ratings, both among Republicans and more importantly among the general electorate as a whole.”

And Arizona’s 1st Congressional District has almost as many Latino voters as Native American voters, 17 percent to 22 percent. (Previous: Big money targets Arizona’s first congressional.) And that’s likely to be an added factor in the November election. Bad news for any Republican, including Shawn Redd or Carlyle Begay. Neither Redd nor Begay have any references to Trump on their web sites.

It will be interesting to see if, and how, the Native American candidates running as Republicans defend or even champion Donald Trump.

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate to Donald Trump. (Campaign photo)

Back to the Arizona 2nd District.

If Trump at the ticket is not good news enough for Victoria Steele, several publications have reported that McSally could be on Trump’s list for potential running mates.  The Fiscal Times makes that case: “Arizona Representative Martha McSally is not only a woman but a retired Air Force colonel who flew combat missions, a triathlete and a member of the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. She could help bolster a Trump ticket’s bona fides on national security and the fight against ISIS.”

Remember the idea of Trump being bad news for McSally or really bad news?

McSally as a potential vice presidential candidate is either good news or really good news for Steele.  It’s good news  for her opponent to be so closely linked to Trump even is she’s not picked. And if McSally is the choice? Then Victoria Steele has only the Democratic primary to worry about in order to win a seat in Congress.


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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