ANADARKO, Okla. – Democratic candidate Maya Torralba describes her campaign for a seat in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives as a bit like David versus Goliath. The political newcomer knows she’s facing an uphill battle to unseat the established Republican incumbent, Phil Richardson, in House District 56.
“I’m a survivor, and I’m a fighter,” she said. “I’m not looking for it to be fun. It’s going to be work.”
As far as Torralba is concerned, every door she knocks on, every constituent she meets and every campaign sign placed in a yard is a win. “It’s a win against denial and apathy,” said Torralba, an enrolled member of the Kiowa tribe and a resident of Anadarko.
Oklahoma’s House District 56 is mostly rural and includes the small city of Anadarko, which calls itself “the only authentic Indian city in the United States.”
“I want to be accountable, to let people know I have an open door.” – Democratic candidate Maya Torralba, Kiowa
“It’s very diverse, a very unique area,” said Torralba, noting Anadarko is home to several different Indian tribes, including the Kiowa, Delaware and Fort Sill Apaches. Her district also includes significant populations of African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Filipino-Americans and descendants of German and Czech farmers and ranchers. “That’s what I love about this area.”
Concerns voiced by constituents in District 56 echo the concerns voiced in rural communities across the country. They range from gangs and meth labs, to improving access to social services and the loss of infrastructure. “Our towns are dying,” Torralba said.
She is running on a platform of safe families and communities, economic revitalization through tourism, and improved state-tribal relations. “I want to be accountable, to let people know I have an open door.”
Torralba’s venture into politics isn’t surprising given her history of activism and community involvement. Married and the mother of three children, Torralba is a senior political science major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. She has served as a tutor in the Anadarko Public School District, serves as a member of the Roots Youth Coalition that works to protect youth in the Caddo County area, and is a member of the Native Youth Leadership Alliance, a national program that provides support to tribal college students. She is also a member of the Kiowa Tribe Teen Suicide Prevention Task Force.
She is a past participant in the People for the American Way’s Young People For (YP4) program for emerging youth leaders and has received training from the Indian Campaign Camp in 2007 and the Frontline Leaders Academy in 2008. That year, she founded the Anadarko Community Esteem Project to empower teenage girls and increase community awareness and youth involvement in Native culture.
At 32, she brings a youthful optimism and energy to the political landscape. “We’re very strong people here. We’re very determined.”
She sees her values as a Kiowa, an Oklahoman and a Progressive as the same. “We all band together. We all help out our neighbors. We’re survivors. I pride myself on that. To me, that is an Oklahoman.”
Regardless of the election’s outcome, she hopes her efforts will pave the way for other Native women to run for office. “I would say stay strong and listen to the voices inside yourself and hold your head high.”
More information on Torralba’s campaign may be found at her website: rebuildwithmaya.com.