CLAREMORE, Okla. - Brad Carson wants to be a real voice for Indian country in Congress.
The descendent of Trail of Tears survivors is not only battling to become that voice, he is pulling ahead of his Republican opponent in the 2nd Congressional District contest.
Carson, a Claremore native is running as a Democratic candidate for the seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Coburn is leaving Congress after three terms to fulfill a promise made when he originally campaigned for the seat.
Carson pegs his opponent, Andy Ewing, as a carbon copy of Coburn, saying that Ewing is even using Coburn's staff in his election efforts. "...and Tom Coburn hasn't been a friend to Indian country."
Despite assistance from the incumbent, a recent poll has Carson ahead of Ewing by 15 percent.
"This is the most Native American congressional district in the nation," Carson said. "I see my role as congressman from this state is to be among the nation's leading spokesman on issues important to Indian country."
Carson, 33 says he is a life-long Democrat and a sixth-generation resident of the 2nd District. He received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma and graduated as an Outstanding Law School Graduate. The Rhodes Scholar earned his master's degree in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
He brings experience from working at the Pentagon as a special assistant to the secretary of Defense for special projects and as a White House Fellow.
Carson said he sees a need for Native Americans to have an actual voice in Congress to address issues like sovereignty and funding for Indian health. Because some members of his own family receive health care through Indian Health Service, Carson said he understands the shortfalls of the current system.
He said he wants to be a voice not only for Native Americans in Oklahoma, but throughout the country.
Where does he stand on the recent attempt by members of Congress to pass H.R. 1814, which would have made it possible for states to force the BIA to take Indian lands out of trust if they believed tribal enterprises weren't paying their share of state sales taxes?
"Well, see I think if anything, we need to make it easier to put land into trust for the tribes, rather than make it easy to take it out of that. Ewing's position is that he agrees with everything that Tom Coburn has done ... rather than take a stand on issues, he believes everything that Coburn believes."
His decision to run Carson says was based on the fact that, "There is a vacuum in leadership in this state. We're the largest state in the country without a single Democrat in Congress.
"It's a tremendous opportunity in this state to put progressive leadership into office." He would serve "So many people, all of Indian country who aren't represented in Congress ... it's a chance to help people."
With less than a month before the election, Carson and his wife Julie are campaigning throughout Oklahoma for the chance to go from being the descendant of his Cherokee ancestors who had no voice, to a voice for all Native people throughout the nation.
"Right now tribal leaders in Oklahoma have no one to go to," Carson said. "Being an enrolled Cherokee - my mother's family came to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears - I'm going to be particularly interested in helping people, not out of generosity or out of social concern, its looking after my own."
Carson said he wasn't sure, but former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller told him that if he won the congressional race, he would be the only enrolled tribal member in Congress.
Getting Indian people to the polls is very important, not only for his own congressional race but also for people throughout Indian country, Carson said. He urged Native Americans to stand up and be counted during this election to ensure a real voice in their federal government.
"This is an important race for Indian country. We look forward to talking to leaders around the nation who are also concerned about tribal sovereignty and other issues affecting Indian country."