TRAHANT REPORTS—The only two members of Congress who are Native American both survived their primary challenges last week.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a Chickasaw, easily defeated his Republican challenger winning more than 71 percent of the votes cast. “I just want to thank the voters,” Cole told The Ada News. “It’s nice to know people support me, and I look forward to running a vigorous race in the fall.”
Markwayne Mullin, who’s now serving his second term in Congress, had a tougher Republican primary. His opponent, Jarrin Jackson, was endorsed by former Sen. Tom Coburn. One of the campaign issues was whether or not Mullin would stick with a pledge to retire after three terms. He won the primary with 63 percent of the vote.
Nationally there are eight Native Americans running for Congress.
The Oklahoma Legislature did have the largest Native American caucus of any state. There are 19 members in the current legislature. However several members were not able to run again because they reached the state’s term limits. Paul Wesselhoft, for example, could not run again and he was a founding member of the legislative caucus. He’s also a legislator for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “The most serious misunderstanding of tribes and tribal government by my fellow state legislators is their misconception of tribal sovereignty,” he said on his tribe’s website. “They do not realize that tribes want to be self-sufficient and autonomous. Somehow they see this as an attack or an encroachment on state sovereignty. I am constantly educating legislators that both entities can exercise sovereignty without destroying the sovereignty of the other.”
My list of Native American candidates who earned a spot on the November ballot include:
— Rep. Chuck Hoskin, D, Claremore, Cherokee;
— Rep. Mark McBride, R, Moore, Citizen Nation Potawatomi;
— Rep. Cory Williams, D, Stillwater, Cherokee;
— Rep. Dan Kirby, R, Broken Arrow, Muscogee;
— Rep. William Fourkiller, D, Stilwell, Cherokee;
— Candidate Dennis Purifoy, D,Yukon, Choctaw
—Candidate Scott Fetgatter, R, Okmulgee, Choctaw;
— Candidate Sooner Davenport, Independent, Yukon, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa and Navajo.
Two candidates who did not make the November ballot include LaRenda Morgan who posted on Facebook: “I congratulated my opponent Mickey Dollens last night and wished him Good Luck. I have no hard feelings towards him. I don’t really know him but we’ve had friendly interactions anytime we saw each other and we smiled & shook hands last week when I seen him out while I was campaigning. I haven’t forgotten my teachings.” Brenda Golden wrote on her Facebook page: “After having a day to decompress, I wanted to express how thankful I am to have had the support and showing of love by so many people who wanted to see me get elected to state office. It truly moved me and warmed my heart …”
A final thought: Many successful politicians lost their first contest. It takes a lot of heart to run for office, especially when you try and represent so many missing Native American voices.
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.