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Oklahoma Indian candidates prepare for November elections

ANADARKO, Okla. – Candidates from the local levels to the highest offices of Congress are making their preparations for the November mid-term elections. In Oklahoma, four Democratic Indian candidates have each won their primaries for both state House and Senate. These candidates are Chuck Hoskin, Cherokee Nation member and candidate for House District 6; Scott BigHorse, Osage Nation member and candidate for House District 36; Al McAffrey, Choctaw Nation member and candidate for House District 88; and John Sparks, Cherokee Nation member and candidate for Senate District 16.

Hoskin won the July 25 Democratic primary by a 63 percent margin of victory. A retired educator, U.S. Navy veteran and 12-year Cherokee Nation council member, Hoskin is running his campaign on a platform based on improving healthcare, education, housing, employment and economic development.

“I’ve addressed the needs of my constituents with better roads, more accessible healthcare, and improved funding for education,” said Hoskin about his previous experience as a Cherokee Nation councilmember. “These are the things that are essential for preserving our rural way of life. As a representative of District 6, I intend to continue doing precisely that for each and every citizen of Craig, Mayes and Rogers counties.”

District 36 Candidate BigHorse won his primary with an overwhelming margin of nearly 80 percent after absentee ballots were counted, with the lowest percentage in all of the precincts being 71 percent. BigHorse’s district includes the majority of Osage County.

Currently working as a consultant in juvenile corrections, BigHorse became involved with county and Osage tribal politics as a youth through his family. He is also well known in Native communities as an experienced traditional singer. His platform consists of improving healthcare and prescription drug costs for seniors, improving education and roads, better communication for first responders and bringing a sense of “fiscal responsibility” to state government.

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“We’ve got surplus monies, and we’re going to have even more surplus monies next year,” said BigHorse. “We have got to use that money wisely and invest it back into the state of Oklahoma and get our state back on track to where we’re not 50th in the nation in most important categories. Our roads and bridges are just crumbling before our feet. We can’t continue to ignore those problems.”

Where Hoskin and BigHorse will face a Republican challenger in November, McAffrey will run uncontested in November after winning a three-way Democratic primary with 52 percent of the vote. A veteran of both the U.S. Navy and law enforcement, McAffrey based his campaign on one of accepting diversity, improving education, healthcare and wages. His district includes a large portion of Oklahoma City, including the Bricktown area of downtown Oklahoma City and the Paseo Arts District.

Sparks’ campaign for Oklahoma state Senate became finalized after winning an August run-off election in an area that includes Norman and the University of Oklahoma. His experience in politics began by working for the then-U.S. Senator and current Oklahoma University President David Boren and for former Oklahoma Congressman Bill Brewster. Sparks also gained experience as an attorney specializing in healthcare and eventually founded Corner Post, an organization dedicated to making healthcare more accessible for children, seniors and the mentally ill. In addition to better healthcare and higher wages as part of his platform, Sparks told Indian Country Today that he wants to form stronger partnerships between state government and Oklahoma tribes for economic development.

One of the added bonuses of having Indian candidates in office is the knowledge of Native issues that many of these candidates will bring with them to office, in addition to serving the needs of their district. In many cases, non-Indian candidates might have what Hoskin referred to as a “learning curve involved in dealing with groups of people throughout the state,” and adding “that learning curve will not be there for me.”

Those within the Oklahoma Democratic Party also welcome the knowledge and experience that Native candidates can bring. According to Jason McCarty, communication director for ODP, Native candidates “will be voice for all of Oklahoma,” he said. “They’re not just candidates for Indian voters. They’ll be able to represent all of Oklahoma. The best thing about it, they’ll have an inherent understanding of tribal sovereignty.

“Tribal people have a rich understanding of our history,” McCarty added. “Oklahoma has been Indian country since its inception. For tribal people to take that next step – to go from electing legislators to actually be the people elected – will make a world of difference.”