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#NativeVote18: Arvina Martin Challenges Wisconsin Status Quo With Bid For Secretary of State

Arvina Martin, Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge Munsee, is running against a long-term incumbent, Democrat Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette.

Election seasons have themes. There are campaign biographies and stories that seem familiar. One such theme is a younger candidates who is challenging the status quo. Sometimes it’s in the form of a third-party bid, such as Eva Reyes-Aguirre’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. She’s running on the Green Party Ticket.

And this week in Wisconsin, Arvina Martin, Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge Munsee, challenged the way things are by running against a long-term incumbent in her own party, Democrat Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette. LaFollette was first elected Secretary of State in 1974.

According to The Associated Press, Martin (and the incumbent) must now collect 2,000 signatures in order to compete in the Democratic primary.

Martin was elected to the Madison City Council last year. She told the Cap Times before her swearing in: “I think about my tribe — the Ho Chunk people have lived here forever — so it really kind of hits me in the chest to know that this is quite possibly the first time that a person from at least the Ho Chunk Nation will have been part of the decision making process.”

And the same goes for the state of Wisconsin.

Then this particular office has an interesting history. Ada Deer, Menominee, was one of the first -- if not the first -- Native American woman to run for a statewide office in 1978. Deer ran for Secretary of State twice, first in 1978 and then again in 1982. By 1978 LaFollette had gone on to run for another office, but in 1982 he ran in a four-way primary challenging the then-Democratic incumbent Vel Phillips. LaFollette won the primary and Deer placed second. He has been in that office ever since.

There are now ten Native candidates for statewide offices and two candidates for Secretary of State.

Erik Rydberg, Pomo, is a Green Party candidate for Secretary of State in California.

One other election note: Idaho may be the most conservative state in the U.S. There are no elected Democrats either statewide or holding federal office. Yet this week a campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot was successful.

“This initiative would bring health care coverage to those who need it the most, and it will allow Idahoans to decide what we want in our healthcare system, no matter what politicians in Boise or Washington, D.C. do,” Emily Strizich, a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said in a statement. “These are moms and dads who work hard in jobs that don’t provide health coverage, and people who are nearing retirement who have lost their jobs.”

This is big and Reclaim Idaho did this with volunteers working in every county. The organization said its founders traveled the state in Medicaid Mobile, a 1977 camper van purchased for $1,500 “emblazoned with the words “MEDICAID FOR IDAHO.”

The expansion of Medicaid would benefit the Indian Health system in Idaho serving five tribes because it would add additional revenue directly to the clinics. It would also make it easier for patients to get insured care from outside medical partners.

Medicaid expansion could also have an implication for the governor’s race in November. (Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, is in a May 15 primary for that race.) The ballot measure could draw attract new voters who see the benefits of the public health insurance program.Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter Follow @TrahantReports