By Jack McNeel -- Today correspondent
FORT HALL, Idaho - David J. Archuleta, Shoshone-Bannock, has entered the race for the U.S. Senate. He is one of two Democrats in Idaho's May 27 primaries.
Archuleta is a lifelong resident of Idaho, with the exception of a two-year stint with the Comanche Nation as its general manager for gaming. He has an extensive background in both media and law work, having started in radio when he was 16 and returned to the Shoshone-Bannock reservation in his early 20s as a public relations officer. He also worked as news director for a radio station in Chubbuck and later joined the staff of the Sho-Ban News as a reporter, winning the Overall Excellence award for hard news reporting from the Native American Journalists Association. That was followed by being a correspondent for National Native News.
His career switched to law when he began working as a tribal court advocate. Archuleta became chief advocate and a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Bar Association. He served as the tribe's chief prosecutor from 1998 - 2000 and, later, as associate tribal judge. He now works in private practice. During those years, he also worked in a program that administers low-income home heating assistance.
Asked why he decided to run for the Senate, Archuleta replied he just wasn't very impressed with the other Democrat running, Larry LaRocco.
''He served a term in Congress and was on the House Banking Committee [House Committee on Financial Services]. I look at how messed up the banking system is today with high mortgage rates - those variable rates that came back to bite them. The credit card companies are totally out of control. I look at 'payday' loans, which are basically legal loan-sharking operations. LaRocco could have prevented all of that when he was on the Banking Committee, but he didn't.
''I'm a working man,'' he continued. ''I work every day. I know what it's like to watch the government take 36 percent of your income every month and what it's like to go from payday to payday to live. I know the impact high fuel prices are having on people. As fuel prices go up, so does the cost of our food. Every business is [affected], so we pay higher prices; and that means we have less disposable income, which is hurting the economy.''
He would like to see oil companies be held more responsible and not given the special tax breaks they have for oil exploration.
''With the extra billions in profit, they can afford to do it themselves. They don't need taxpayers to subsidize them.''
He would also like to see a portion of their excess profits - ''not regular profits'' - be distributed through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program directly to people who are hurting now.
''I want them to take responsibility for the mess they've created. When I'm elected to the U.S. Senate, I intend to propose legislation to tax oil companies on 50 percent of their excess profits. We've given them the chance to step up and be good citizens; since they're not, we need to impose those taxes on them.''
Archuleta is a Vietnam veteran, joining the Navy when he was 18 and returning on the last U.S. warship out of Vietnam. He's proud of his naval service and has strong feelings about the war in Iraq.
''I'm a veteran who put myself in harm's way like a lot of other young people did and still are today. When I tell you my war stance, it's from someone who's been there,'' he commented.
''I'm adamantly against President Bush's war for oil. That's what I believe the real issue has always been with Iraq. The folks in Iraq were not the ones that knocked down our towers; it was the Taliban. That's who we should have been fighting all this time. They attacked us. I strongly believe anyone who attacks our country needs to be punished severely.''
Speaking about Indian gaming, Archuleta said, ''My position has been very clear my whole career. I totally support Indian gaming. It creates jobs and provides economic opportunities for tribes. Since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, tribes have had an opportunity to be able to acquire businesses other than gaming and to diversify their economy.''
Archuleta is strongly committed to Indian health care, saying it was a commitment by the U.S. government at the time of the treaties.
''We need to make sure we're providing decent health care to people. We have to do that.''
In a more local issue, he spoke of the poor condition of the tribal jail on the Fort Hall reservation.
''It has been condemned for the last 15 or 20 years. As a judge, I hated to put people in there. We need a new justice center on the reservation and it needs to include a treatment facility. It's a concept [treatment facility and jail] in Indian country we need to be looking at.''
He has put together an election committee that represents everyday people. It includes his three brothers, who have varied experience from working on the space shuttle program at Vandenberg Air Force Base to truck driving to a member of a labor union. Others are former tribal council members, including two ranchers: ''Everyday people who are so frustrated with what's going on around America that they joined my team and said, 'Let's do something about it.'
''Basically, I'm running because I don't think standard-issue Democrats or standard-issue Republicans will be able to solve the problems of our country. It takes people who can think and can really see the problems, and that's why I'm running.''