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Pauly Denetclaw
ICT

Aug. 10, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. ET

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan won by an overwhelming margin in Tuesday’s primary election, garnering 97 percent of the votes. The pair got a little over 415,000 votes. They will head to the general election and face Scott Jensen and Mike Birk, who won the Republican nomination with 90 percent of the votes. They got nearly 290,000 votes.

Current polling predictions still have the Walz/Flanagan ticket winning at the general election. However, Flanagan said in a recent interview with ICT that this will be a tough race. The state leans blue and elected President Joe Biden in 2020.

The only Indigenous candidate running for state office with a primary opponent was Alicia Kozlowski, Ojibwe. She ran against Duluth City Council member Arik Forsman for state House District 8B and won with an overwhelming 56 percent of the votes. She will head to the general and face Republican candidate Becky Hall.

State District 8B was redistricted from the recreational town of Alexandria, Minnesota to represent part of Duluth. This will be the first election since redistricting.

Incumbent Dan Jourdain, Red Lake Nation, and Audrey Thayer, White Earth Nation, ran for Bemidji City Councilor-At-Large. Incumbent Jourdain came in third to current city council members Thayer and Ron Johnson. 

Thayer and Johnson will head to the general election. 

Other candidates heading to the general are listed below.

Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. ET

One of the top Indigenous state officials in the country is up for reelection this year. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and Gov. Tim Walz are working to secure another four years in office.

“Ideally, we continue the work that we have been doing to strengthen our relationships with our Native nations that share their geography with the state of Minnesota, as well as the robust urban Native communities that we have here in Minnesota,” Flanagan said during a Zoom interview with ICT. “It's working on and making culturally specific investments in housing, social services, education. So, that our young people see themselves reflected in their educators and in the curriculum in their classroom. It's making sure that our Native relatives who are experiencing homelessness have access to shelter, but also to long-term housing solutions that are culturally relevant and supportive of our people and communities.”

Flanagan is running against one other in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Julia Parker, running mate to Ole Savior who first ran in the gubernatorial race in 2014. In 2018, Savior got .7 percent of votes in the Democratic primary. There are three in the Republican primary including a candidate that goes by Captain Jack Sparrow.

The leading Republican candidate and likely nominee in the Minnesota gubernatorial race is Scott Jensen.

“The choice that we have right now is between Gov. Walz and myself and our opponents who have even questioned whether or not there should be tribal nations within Minnesota,” Flanagan told ICT. “That is not a question. That is the supreme law of the land that we exist.”

According to the Cook Political Report, Minnesota is a likely blue state. It supported Joe Biden in 2020. FiveThirtyEight has Walz polling at four points higher than Jensen.

Over the last four years, the Walz-Flanagan administration created the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Taskforce that then released a report that called for the creation of the Office for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, which opened recently. During the pandemic, the administration was quick to connect with the 11 Indigenous nations in the state with daily, then weekly briefings to make sure the nations were supported.

“Minnesota has existed for 165 years and is sort of headed in the same direction when it comes to working with tribal communities,” Flanagan said. “We're trying to steer the ship in a new way that regardless if Gov. Walz and I are in office, that every governor and lieutenant governor from here forward does this work in a good way. In a way that acknowledges and really supports tribal sovereignty and our government-to-government relationships.”

“That's the difference that I see we're making, but we need to continue to solidify that. So that when we're no longer in these roles, native people in Minnesota can feel confident they will be seen and heard and valued and invested in.”

Minnesota isn’t the only state that has a primary election that day. Connecticut, Vermont and Wisconsin are also holding elections. According to the list of Indigenous candidates compiled by ICT, there are no Indigenous candidates in the three other states. The list isn’t complete and ICT encourages people to reach out to political correspondent, Pauly Denetclaw, at pauly@ictnews.org to add any past or present candidates we may have missed.

Walz and Flanagan led Minnesota through the COVID-19 pandemic. On their campaign website, they highlight this leadership and pledge to continue to save lives and ensure the state’s economy recovers quickly.

“Tim and Peggy provided thousands of small business loans and grants to help restaurants, cafes, barbershops, and other small businesses weather the pandemic,” the website states.

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The other accomplishments during the Walz/Flanagan administration include passing the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act which provides relief to those struggling to afford their insulin, an increase in funding per student for the first time in 15 years, funded community violence prevention grants as well as transparency and accountability for police and signed a bill giving a tax break to the middle class.

They continue to push for the state to move toward its energy being 100 percent renewable by 2040.

“I'm under no illusions. This is going to be a tough fight,” Flanagan said. “But I know that Native women are up for tough fights and challenges. And we overcome.”

In Minnesota, the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are grouped together and run on the same ticket. The lieutenant governor’s duties include calling the state Senate to order during convening days, any and all duties delegated to them by the governor, successor to the governor in a vacancy plus they can visit state correctional facilities.

The lieutenant governor also sits on one board, one council, and two committees, the Executive Council, Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, State Capitol Preservation Commission, and the Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security.

In the state Legislature, six of the seven Indigenous candidates running for state House or Senate seats are running unopposed in their primary and will head directly to the general election this November.

Alicia Kozlowski, Ojibwe, is the only Indigenous candidate who has an opponent in the Democratic primary. She is running against Duluth city council member Arik Forsman for state House District 8B.

Kozlowski was born and raised in Duluth. She was a first-generation college graduate from the University of Minnesota - Duluth. Later, she graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from the College of St. Scholastica.

She has been endorsed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, the state’s left political party.

The six Indigenous candidates who were running unopposed in the primary are:

Steve Green, White Earth Nation, a Republican running for state House District 2B.

Jamie Becker-Finn, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe descent, a Democrat running for state House District 42B.

Heather Keeler, Yankton Sioux Tribe, a Democrat running for state House District 4A.

Erika Bailey-Johnson, Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, a Democrat running for state House District 2B.

Alan Roy, White Earth Nation, a Democrat running for state Senate District 2.

Mary Kunesh-Podein, Standing Rock Sioux, a Democrat running for state Senate District 41.

At the local level Tim Sumner, Red Lake Nation, is running for Beltrami County Commissioner District 4.

Incumbent Dan Jourdain, Red Lake Nation, and Audrey Thayer, White Earth Nation, are running for Bemidji City Councilor At Large. There are four candidates in that race.

The primary election will be Tuesday, Aug. 9. Information about voting in Minnesota can be found here.

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