Native candidates score in legislative, other bids

Dr. Ponka-We Victors (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Indian Country Today)

Election 2020

Updated with latest results: Tribal citizens achieve milestones in races for legislatures, county office, state Supreme Court  #NativeVote20

Indian Country Today

While 14 Native candidates were running for U.S. House and Senate in Tuesday’s elections, dozens more were looking to make their mark at the state and local level.

They included notable candidates for statewide office, legislatures and courts.

In statehouse races, first-time candidate Christina Haswood, Diné, will become Kansas' youngest sitting legislator after no one filed to run against her in the general election. The 26-year-old Democrat won her state House primary with 70 percent of the vote.

Another Democrat, Stephanie Byers, Chickasaw, is poised to become the first transgender woman in the Kansas Legislature, with unofficial results showing she won her race for the state House.

And Democrat Ponka-We Victors, Tohono O’odham and Ponca, will be returning to the Kansas House for a sixth term. She became the first Native woman elected to the Kansas Legislature 10 years ago.

Christina Haswood, Navajo, beat out two other Democrats and faces no Republican candidate to represent District 10 in Kansas' House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Haswood campaign)
Christina Haswood, Navajo (Photo courtesy of Haswood campaign)
Kansas House candidate Stephanie Byers (Photo courtesy of Byers for Kansas)
Kansas House candidate Stephanie Byers (Photo courtesy of Byers for Kansas)

Meanwhile, Wyoming’s election featured two Northern Arapaho candidates who ran against each other for a state House seat. Republican Valaira Whiteman lost to the Democratic incumbent, Andi Clifford. Diné Republican Affie Ellis, Wyoming’s first Native state senator, also won reelection.

Related:
US House candidates make history
 
Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, loses Senate bid

Another noteworthy contest was in Washington state, where Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Isleta Pueblo, kept her seat on the state Supreme Court, according to unofficial state results. Montoya-Lewis this year became the first Native American to serve on the court after Washington’s Democratic governor chose her to replace a retiring judge. 

Michigan’s election featured an Indigenous candidate who appeared to be the first ever nominated to compete for the state's top court. Katherine Mary Nepton, Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, lost her bid for a Michigan Supreme Court seat. She was nominated for the ballot by the Libertarian Party.

In Montana, Shane Morigeau, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was unsuccessful in his run for the statewide office of auditor, the official tasked with regulating insurance and finance and managing tax revenue. 

In another statewide race, Remi Bald Eagle, Mnicoujou Lakota, lost his bid for a seat on South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission. The three-member panel is the regulatory authority over utilities, and issues permits for pipelines, wind farms and electrical grids in the state.

And among more than a dozen Native candidates in Arizona, Democrat Gabriella Cazares-Kelly, Tohono O’odham, ran for Pima County recorder. She won with nearly 60 percent of the votes, according to a state election website. 

Others in the state, and elsewhere, sought legislative offices, judicial posts and positions on county, city and school boards.

Here’s a look at Native candidates in state and local races:

ALASKA

  • WON: Neal Foster, Inupiaq, State House 39, Democrat
  • Tiffany Zulkosky, Yup'ik, State House 38, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Bryce Edgmon, Yup'ik, State House 37, Independent
  • Elizabeth Ferguson, Inupiaq, State House 40, Democrat
  • WON: Donny Olson, Inupiaq, State Senate T, Democrat
  • LOST: Thomas Baker, Inupiaq, State Senate T, Republican

ARIZONA

  • WON: Judy Begay, Navajo, Coconino County Board of Supervisors, District 4, Democrat
  • LOST: Bernadette Kniffen, San Carlos Apache, Gila County Board of Supervisors, District 3, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Lena Fowler, Navajo, Coconino County Board of Supervisors, District 5, Democrat
  • LOST: Makaius Marks, Navajo, Flagstaff Unified School District Board, Coconino
  • WON: Deborah Ann Begay, Navajo, Justice of the Peace, Moon Valley, Democrat
  • WON: Jennifer Jermaine, White Earth Nation, Arizona House 18, Democrat
  • WON: Arlando Teller, Navajo, Arizona House 7, Democrat
  • WON: Myron Tsosie, Navajo, Arizona House 7, Democrat
  • WON: Domingo DeGrazia, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Arizona House 10, Democrat
  • *LOST: Felicia French, Pascua Yaqui, Arizona Senate 6, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Sally Ann Gonzales, Pascua Yaqui, Arizona Senate 3, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Jamescita Peshlakai, Navajo, Arizona Senate 7, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Victoria Steele, Seneca, Arizona Senate 9, Democrat
  • *WON: Gabriella Cazares-Kelly, Tohono O’odham, Pima County Recorder, Democrat

CALIFORNIA

  • WON: James Ramos, Serrano/Cahuilla, State Assembly 40, Democrat
  • LOST: Jackie Fielder, Hidatsa, Arikara, Mandan, State Senate 11, Democrat
  • *WON: Todd Gloria, Alaskan Native (Tlingit/Haida), Mayor of San Diego, Democrat 

HAWAII

  • LOST: Lanakila Mangauil, Native Hawaiian, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawai'i Island Trustee, nonpartisan
  • WON: Ty Cullen, Native Hawaiian, State House 39, Democrat
  • WON: Lynn Decoite, Native Hawaiian, State House 13, Democrat
  • LOST: Jacob Aki, Native Hawaiian, Honolulu City Council, District 7, nonpartisan
  • WON: Keola Lindsey, Native Hawaiian, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawai'i Island Trustee, nonpartisan
  • *WON: Luana Alapa, Native Hawaiian, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Molokai, nonpartisan
  • *LOST: Colette Machado, Native Hawaiian, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Molokai, nonpartisan
  • *WON: Keli'i Akina, Native Hawaiian, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, at large, nonpartisan
  • *LOST: Keoni Souza, Native Hawaiian, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, at large, nonpartisan

IOWA

  • LOST: Christina Blackcloud, Meskwaki, State House 72, Democrat
Christina Blackcloud (Photo courtesy of Blackcloud campaign)
Christina Blackcloud (Photo courtesy of Blackcloud campaign)

KANSAS

  • UNOPPOSED: Christina Haswood, Navajo, State House 10, Democrat
  • WON: Ponka-We Victors, Tohono O’odham and Ponca, State House 103, Democrat 
  • *WON: Stephanie Byers, Chickasaw, State House 86, Democrat

MICHIGAN

  • *LOST: Julie Dye, Pokagon Band Potawatomi Nation, Cass County Commissioner, Board 1, Democrat
  • *LOST: Katherine Nepton, Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, Michigan Supreme Court, Libertarian

MINNESOTA

  • *WON: Audrey Thayer, White Earth Nation, Bemidji City Council, Ward 1
  • *WON: Tim Sumner, Red Lake Ojibwe, County Commission 4
  • WON: Jamie Becker-Finn, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, State House 42B, Democrat
  • WON: Heather Keeler, Yankton Sioux and Eastern Shoshone, State House 4A, Democrat
  • LOST: Gaylene Spolarich, Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band, State House 10B, Democrat
  • LOST: Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, State Senate 7, Republican
  • LOST: Alan Roy, White Earth Nation, State Senate 2, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Jeannice Reding, Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, Fourth Judicial District, nonpartisan
  • UNOPPOSED: Korey Wahwassuck, Cree, Ninth Judicial District, nonpartisan
  • WON: Mary Kunesh-Podein, Standing Rock Sioux, State Senate 41, Democrat
  • *WON: Elizabeth Jaakola, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Cloquet City Council
  • **WON: Dan Jourdain, Red Lake Nation, Bemidji City Council 
(Photo courtesy of Donna Bergstrom for Minnesota State Senate)
(Photo courtesy of Donna Bergstrom for Minnesota State Senate)

MONTANA

  • LOST: Shane Morgieau, Confederated Salish Kootenai, State Auditor, Democrat
  • *LOST: Jade Bahr, Northern Cheyenne, State House 50, Democrat
  • *LOST: Barbara Bessette, Chippewa Cree, State House 24, Democrat
  • WON: Donavon Hawk, Crow, State House 76, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Rhonda Knudsen, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, State House 34, Republican
  • *LOST: Bruce Meyers, Chippewa Cree, State House 32, Republican
  • UNOPPOSED: Tyson Running Wolf, Blackfeet, State House 16, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Frank Smith, Assiniboine Sioux, State House 31, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, Crow, State House 42, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED Marvin Weatherwax, Blackfeet, State House 15, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Rynalea Whiteman-Pena, Northern Cheyenne, State House 41, Democrat
  • *WON: Jonathan Windy Boy, Chippewa Cree, State House 32, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Mike Fox, A'aniiih (Gros Ventre), State Senate 16, Democrat
  • LOST: Rae Peppers, Northern Cheyenne, State Senate 21, Democrat
  • WON: Jason Small, Northern Cheyenne, State Senate 21, Republican
Jonathan Windy Boy (Montana Legislature)
Jonathan Windy Boy (Montana Legislature)

NEW MEXICO

  • WON: Anthony Allison, Navajo Nation, State House 4, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Doreen Wonda Johnson, Navajo Nation, State House 5, Democrat
  • WON: Derrick Lente, Sandia & Isleta Pueblo, State House 65, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Georgene Louis, Acoma Pueblo, State House 26, Democrat
  • WON: Patricia Roybal Caballero, Piro Manso Tiwa, State House 13, Democrat 
  • WON: Shannon Pinto, Navajo Nation, State Senate 3, Democrat
  • WON: Benny Shendo Jr., Jemez Pueblo, State Senate 22, Democrat
  • WON: Brenda McKenna, Nambe Pueblo, State Senate 9, Democrat
  • LOST: Gertrude Lee, Navajo Nation, New Mexico Court of Appeals, Position 2, Republican
Patricia Roybal Caballero
Patricia Roybal Caballero (Photo courtesy of Roybal Caballero campaign)

NORTH DAKOTA

  • *LOST: Thomasina Mandan, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, State House 4, Democrat
  • *LOST: Tracey Wilkie, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, State House 16, Democrat
  • LOST: Lisa Finley-Deville, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, State Senate 4, Democrat

OKLAHOMA

  • *LOST: Chelsey Branham, Chickasaw, State House 83, Democrat
  • UNOPPOSED: Mark McBride, Potawatomi, State House 53, Republican
  • WON: Collin Walke, Cherokee Nation, State House 87, Democrat
  • LOST: Summer Wesley, Choctaw, State House 100, Democrat
  • WON: Shane Jett, Cherokee Nation, State Senate 17, Republican
  • *LOST: Jennifer Wilkinson, Cheyenne and Arapaho, State Senate 45, Democrat
Shane Jett, a candidate for Oklahoma state senate. (Photo courtesy of Jett's campaign website)
Shane Jett (Photo courtesy of Jett's campaign website)

OREGON

  • UNOPPOSED: Tawna Sanchez, Shoshone-Bannock, Ute & Carrizo, State House 43, Democrat
  • LOST: Carina Miller, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, State Senate 30, Democrat

SOUTH DAKOTA

  • LOST: Remi Bald Eagle, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, Democrat
  • WON: Shawn Bordeaux, Rosebud Sioux, State House 26A, Democrat
  • *WON: Peri Pourier, Oglala Lakota, State House 27, Democrat
  • *WON: Tamara St. John, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, State House 1, Republican
  • *LOST: Ernest Weston Jr., Oglala Lakota, State House 27, Democrat
  • *WON: Red Dawn Foster, Oglala Lakota, State Senate 27, Democrat
  • *WON: Troy Heinert, Rosebud Sioux, State Senate 26, Democrat

TENNESSEE

  • WON: Bryan Terry, Choctaw, State House 48, Republican

WASHINGTON

  • UNOPPOSED: Debra Lekanoff, Tlingit/Aleut, State House 40, Democrat
  • WON: Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Isleta Pueblo, State Supreme Court, Position 3, nonpartisan

WISCONSIN

  • LOST: Amanda White Eagle, Ho-Chunk, State Assembly 92, Democrat

WYOMING

  • WON: Andi Clifford, Northern Arapaho, State House 33, Democrat
  • LOST: Valaira Whiteman, Northern Arapaho, State House 33, Republican
  • WON: Affie Ellis, Navajo Nation, State Senate 8, Republican
ICT Phone Logo

* Notes that unofficial results were taken from each state’s secretary of state website

** Notes Dan Jourdain won the primary election and will advance to the general election in February. 

Graphic by freelance investigative data journalist and educator Daniel Lathrop (@lathropd).

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This story has been updated to correct that Arlando Teller won his race in Arizona House 7 and that Ponka-We Victors was the first Native woman elected to the Kansas Legislature.

Comments (4)
No. 1-4
CreeMan
CreeMan

Great to see our Indian brothers and sisters south of the Medicine Line getting elected to important positions and getting a strong voice in US politics. Well done all!! from a CreeMan in Muskoday reservation Canada. AHO

caniscandida
caniscandida

Yes, it truly is great. Note though that the state of Montana has unfortunately taken a strong Trumpist turn to the right -- conservatives in that state used to be a bit more open-minded than conservatives elsewhere -- , and the pattern this time mostly is that Democratic candidates were defeated, e.g. Shane Morigeau, and Chippewa-Cree Barbara Bessette, though at least the other Chippewa-Cree candidate Jonathan Windy Boy won his race.

JamesConnaly
JamesConnaly

Thank you very much for the information.


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