Diné woman will be Kansas’ youngest sitting legislator
Indian Country Today
All four Native candidates running for office in Kansas won their primary elections Tuesday, including one who is the presumptive winner of a state House seat, and will become Kansas' youngest sitting legislator, after no one filed to run against her in November.
Twenty-six-year-old first-time candidate Christina Haswood, Diné, won her Democratic primary with 70 percent of the vote.
"It's still surreal," Haswood said Tuesday night. "I just want to thank my voters for supporting me in this important election."
On Wednesday morning, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez rang praise for Haswood.
"Change is happening with this election, and Christina Haswood is part of that change," Nez said. "I am very proud of her and all that she has accomplished to this point. She is truly an inspiration to our people, especially our young people."
U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, of Kansas, ran unopposed in her bid for a second term in Congress, and will advance to the general election.
She will face Amanda Adkins, former chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party, in November. The Republican primary was a race between five candidates.
(National election update: Protest leader ousts longtime member of Congress; Kansas, Arizona, Washington results)
In Kansas’ 86th district, Stephanie Byers, Chickasaw, won the Democratic nomination for a state House seat. If elected in November, Byers would be the first transgender woman in the state’s Legislature.
Ponka-We Victors, Tohono O’odham and Ponca Tribe, currently serves in the Kansas House as the only Native legislator. She won the primary Tuesday in her bid for a sixth term.
Tuesday’s primary elections included five states that were narrowing the field in statewide and legislative races.
Indian Country Today has been following 21 Native candidates seeking various offices Aug. 4 in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan and Washington.
As of midday Thursday, a handful of races had not been called.
Also holding a primary Tuesday was Missouri, though no Native candidates appeared to be seeking office in that state.
Haswood is the presumed winner of a Kansas state House seat given that no Republican filed for candidacy in the race.
She was endorsed by Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Emily’s list, the nations’ largest political action committee for women in politics.
Kansas’ 10th district, where Haswood won office, includes Haskell Indian Nations University. She holds degrees from Haskell, Arizona State University and the University of Kansas.
Haswood noted Davids inspired her to run.
“I always thought that us Natives weren’t accepted in politics here in Kansas, but then Congresswoman Davids did it,” Haswood said laughing. “And I was like, ‘OK, I can do it too.’”
Byers is a recently retired schoolteacher who has taught in Oklahoma, Arizona and Kansas.
“Having someone with a background of 32 years in the classroom makes a huge difference,” Byers said. “I realize exactly how funding happens when it goes through the classroom door, into the student and how it affects that student and their family.”
In 2018, Byers was named National Educator of the Year by GLSEN, an education organization dedicated to supporting students’ sexual orientation, gender identity and LGBTQ inclusion.
She is expected to face off against Republican business owner Cyndi Howerton in November. Byers was endorsed by the Victory Fund, a political action committee dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBTQ candidates.
Here are other races including Native candidates across the country. Updated on Aug. 10, 2020:
Arizona had 11 Native candidates:
- WON: Deborah Ann Begay, Navajo, Justice of the Peace, Moon Valley
- WON: Gabriella Cazares-Kelly, Tohono O’odham, Pima County Recorder
- WON: Domingo DeGrazia, Eastern Band of Cherokee, AZ House 10
- WON: Sally Ann Gonzales, Pascua Yaqui, AZ Senate 3
- WON: Jennifer Jermaine, White Earth Nation, AZ House 18
- ADVANCES TO GENERAL: Makius Marks, Navajo, Flagstaff Unified School District
- LOST: Debbie Nez Manuel, Navajo, AZ House 26
- WON: Jamescita Peshlakai, Navajo, AZ Senate 7
- WON: Victoria Steele, Seneca, AZ Senate 9
- WON: Arlando Teller, Navajo, AZ House 7
- WON: Myron Tsosie, Navajo, AZ House 7
- WON: Judy Begay, Navajo, Coconino County, Board of Supervisors
- WON: Felicia French, Pascua Yaqui, AZ House 6
- WON: Bernadette Kniffen, San Carlos Apache, Gila County, Board of Supervisors
- WON: Lena Fowler, Navajo, Coconino County, Board of Supervisors
Kansas has 4 Native candidates:
- WON: Stephanie Byers, Chickasaw, KS House 86
- WON: Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, U.S. House, District 3
- WON: Christina Haswood, Navajo, KS House 10
- WON: Ponka-We Victors, Tohono O’odham and Ponca Tribe, KS House 103
Michigan has 1 Native candidate:
- WON: Julie Dye, Pokagon Band Potawatomi Nation, Cass County Commissioner Board 1
Washington has 5 Native candidates:
- LOST: Glenda Breiler, Colville, WA House 22
- Katherine Festa, Haida, Federal Way City Council
- LOST: Amanda Funaro, Choctaw, Jefferson County Commission, District 2
- WON: Debra Lekanoff, Tlingit, WA House 40
- WON: Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Isleta Pueblo, Washington Supreme Court
Aug. 10 update: This story has been updated to correct that Makius Marks, Navajo, who is running for the Flagstaff Unified School Board did not have a primary election. School board elections in Flagstaff are nonpartisan elections and do not have primaries. Marks automatically advances to the general election.
Aug. 6 update: This story has been updated to correct that state Rep. Ponka-We Victors is seeking a sixth term in office.
Aug. 3 update: This story has been updated to include information about Ponka-We Victors and that Christina Haswood has been endorsed by Rep. Deb Haaland.
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