Indian Country Today
In a time of heavy and worrisome news, 2020 presented a unique year for Indigenous people seeking public office.
A record number of Indigenous candidates entered the year campaigning for offices at all levels of government, including Congress, state legislatures and city councils.
November came, and voters headed to the polls and watched the results roll in on Indian Country Today’s live election night broadcast.
In all, 114 Indigenous candidates ran for public office, with 72 of those candidates successfully elected. Of the total candidates, 67 were women. That’s more than half!
After Election Day, Indigenous representation in Congress went from four elected officials, to six. Another first.
December hit, and the most notable political event of the year happened: Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico was chosen as President-elect Joe Biden’s Interior secretary nominee. A monumental selection.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland will make history as the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. She would also be the third woman to lead the Interior Department.
Her selection, however, means Indigenous representation in Congress will decrease to five in 2021. Still the most in history.
Up and down the ballot, Indigenous candidates campaigned on themes of protecting the environment, ensuring proper care for communities that were devastatingly impacted by the coronavirus, and (finally) addressing the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis.
Here’s a look back at the Indigenous candidates who made a splash:
Secretary of Interior nominee Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos:
Hawaii U.S. Rep.-elect Kai Kahele, Kanaka Maoli:
New Mexico U.S. Rep-elect Yvette Herrell, Cherokee:
Kansas state Rep.-elect Stephanie Byers, Chickasaw:
Kansas state Rep.-elect Christina Haswood, Diné:
Tempe City Council member Doreen Garlid, Diné:
Pima County Recorder-elect Gabriella Cazares-Kelly, Tohono O'odham:
Various congressional hopefuls:
- Paulette Jordan: Paulette Jordan’s historic Senate bid
- Darren Parry: Shoshone leader competes for Utah US House seat
- Tricia Zunker: Possibly many firsts for Tricia Zunker in Wisconsin
- Rudy Soto: Rudy Soto's 'bad' beginning led to politics
- Lynnette Grey Bull: First-time Native candidate already making history
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at email@example.com.
Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. We have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.