Primary elections today in North Dakota, Maine; So Dakota convention this week

Ashley McCray is a candidate for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. (Campaign photo)

Mark Trahant

Preview of #NativeVote18 elections in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Maine and a party convention in South Dakota

Summary #NativeVote18

Mark Trahant

Indian Country Today

New Mexico Democrats tossed out members of the state’s Public Regulation Commission on Tuesday. There was a lot of competition for the seat in Northwest New Mexico where three Navajo women competed in District 4. Theresa Becenti-Aguilar narrowly defeated incumbent Lynda Lovejoy and Janene Yazzie.

The Republicans did not field a candidate in this race -- that makes Becenti-Aguilar the all-but-certain winner in November.

This is an important post. The agency regulates utilities, pipelines, fire and ambulance services, and sets some utility rates. It’s also one of the state’s highest paying public service gigs, paying a salary of some $90,000 per year.

The utility industry cares about these offices a lot. The incumbent, Lovejoy, raised nearly $12,000 but was supported by tens of thousands of dollars in third-party ads funded by utilities that attacked candidate Yazzie.

The winning candidate, Becenti-Aguilar, spent only a little more than a thousand dollars winning the race through her hard work.

This will give her added independence.

The Public Regulation Commission has difficult issues ahead, especially a plan to shut down the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant. Most of the jobs at the plant are held by Navajo workers. The Farmington Daily Times reported that “local leaders in government, business and economics are eyeing a number of potential industries to attract to the area to fill the void created not only from the coal plant’s retirement, but from a slump in the oil and gas industry.” Ideas include new agriculture production, manufacturing, outdoors and adventure tourism, and server farms or technology infrastructure.

Across the country, after this week’s primary contests, there are still at least 120 #NativeVote18 candidates running for state legislatures, statewide offices and the Congress. And more than half of those candidates are women at 62. (#SheRepresents) As always, a caveat, every time these lists are published, we find new names to add or correct. (Interactive graphic.)

Ashley Nicole McCray, Absentee Shawnee and Oglala Lakota, is running for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, “which is our state's regulatory agency overseeing oil, gas, utility, and transportation.” McCray says Oklahoma is the “pipeline crossroads of the world” and getting more man-made earthquakes because of fracking and wastewater injection wells. She said big oil and barons like Harold Hamm have been making the decisions.

“I am a well known environmental advocate who has long stood against Big Oil in our state,” she said. “I am a co-founder of Stop the Plains All American Pipeline, which has served Oklahoma as an advocacy hub for citizens impacted by eminent domain, environmental degradation, pollution, and other environmental injustices.”

McCray is one of three Democrats in the race. There are also three Republicans and an independent running for the post. The Oklahoma primary is June 26.

Kevin Stitt, Cherokee Nation, is a Republican candidate for governor in the primary. He rarely raises or campaigns on Native issues.

Another candidate on that primary ballot is Anastasia Pittman, Seminole. She is currently a state senator. She will face Anna Dearmore in the primary.

Pittman is one of seven Native Americans campaigning for the office of lieutenant governor (as well as three candidates for state governors).

The others are in Minnesota: Democrat Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Ojibwe; Republican Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake Nation; and Independence Party’s Debra Topping, Leech Lake Ojibwe. In Alaska: Lt. Governor and independent Democrat Byron Mallott, Tlingit; Democrat Debra Call, Dena’ina; and Democrat Edgar Blatchford, Yupik. (Mallott will be on the November ballot via citizen signatures instead of a primary. Call and Blatchford will face Democratic voters on August 21.)

Tatewin Means must win a nomination at the South Dakota Democratic Party convention instead of facing voters in a primary election.

South Dakota Democrats will nominate their candidates for office at the state convention starting June 15. Tatewin Means, Lakota, is competing with former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler for the nomination. Means has been crossing the state campaigning for delegates at the country level. She has recently been endorsed by the AFL-CIO as well as the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, Standing Rock Tribe, Cheyenne River Tribe, and the Rosebud Tribe.

Means is quoted by The Huron Plainsman saying that many South Dakotans have a narrow view of the of her world. “My entire life I’m used to being the underrepresented person in the room,” she said in a debate. “I don’t like to say a voice for the voiceless because we know that we’ve always had a voice, we’ve always tried to get our voice heard. It’s just that it’s been ignored for far too long.”

Even consider what are the “qualifications” for an office such as attorney general. Seiler touts his law enforcement background and as a federal prosecutor. Means has a broad range of experience, from the attorney general for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, to a college professor and administrator.

Oklahoma rich with #NativeVote18 congressional candidates

The next #NativeVote18 primary for Congress is in Oklahoma.

Amanda Douglas, Cherokee Nation, is a candidate in the first congressional district as a Democrat. She faces four other candidates for her party’s nomination. In the second congressional district, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, faces three challengers in his bid for re-election in the Republican primary. And on the Democratic side, Jason Nichols, Cherokee, and Elijah McIntosh, Muscogee, are competing for the nomination. Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, faces a single opponent in the Republican primary.

Utah voters will also go to the polls on June 26. James Singer, Navajo, will be his party’s nominee. Singer won enough votes at the Democratic Party’s convention to secure his place on the ballot.

Maine’s primary election is June 12, but the Henry John Bear is the only candidate running on the Green Party line for the second congressional district. Bear is a delegate to the Maine House of Representatives representing Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.

On June 12, Ruth Buffalo, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara, will face voters in Fargo, North Dakota, in her bid for the state legislature. She has one opponent who is also seeking the Democratic-NonPartisan League nomination.

“As a mom and a lifelong North Dakotan, I am committed to improving our quality of life,” Buffalo said on her campaign site. “I want to reduce the cost of healthcare in North Dakota and make sure our communities throughout the state are safe for everyone.”

Buffalo is independent consultant for health-related programs and services. She was the party’s nominee for insurance commissioner in 2016 -- a statewide office -- and received more than 85,000 votes in that campaign.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Debra Krol
Debra Krol

Yeah, about Maine: it's the only state legislature that has seats designated for the local tribes, and has since 1823. One representative, Donna Loring of Penobscot, pushed through the U.S.'s first state legislation specifying tribal history, culture and issues curriculum be included in all grades K-12. Other states have followed suit, but if memory serves, only Maine and Hawai'i have such deeply embedded Indigenous curriculum - and as we all know, Hawai'i is also the only state with an Indigenous language as an official language. [though there may be an article coming up about some of the recent snafus in enforcing that!] Cheers.