Sherry Alu Campagna challenges status quo in her bid for Congress #NativeVote18

Sherry Alu Campagna, Native Hawiian, is campaigning on Indigenous issues in her bid for Hawaii's second congressional district. (Campaign photo)

Mark Trahant

Hawaii's primary election is Saturday

My list of Native Americans running for Congress has been incomplete. Somehow I missed reporting that Sherry Alu Campagna, a Native Hawaiian, is a candidate in Hawaii's second congressional district. She is a Democrat.

She would be the first Native Hawaiian woman in Congress (as well as one of the first Native American women who could make history by serving in the next Congress). She is one of two Native Hawaiians in Saturday's primary, Kaniela Ing is a candidate in the first congressional district.

Campagna is challenging one of Hawaii's most popular politicians, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in the primary.

“I decided to run for this position because the people of rural Hawaii deserve a representative who will remain a true servant to their needs in Congress," Campagna said on her campaign website. "I will succeed in protecting the people of CD2 and their families, growing a thriving community, and protecting our environment.”

And championing rural people, including the Native Hawaiian community, means rethinking land. As Campagna told Hawaii News Now, "Land is our nearest and dearest resource and to continue to develop it and then put it in the hands of people who don’t pay into our tax system, who are not from here, who haven’t invested in our community the way we have, is unconscionable.”

Last week at a rally at a park, Campagna said, that Hawaii has the highest number of houseless, per capita, in the U.S., wherein which Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented. I aim to end this abuse of our sisters and brothers. They are our family: seniors, children, women, and men who deserve dignity and economic justice. "My people."

This race has escaped national attention and Gabbard worked hard to keep it that way. Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran and a national political figure, has refused to debate Campagna. Gabbard's campaign told Hawaii News Now that “Tulsi will not be participating in a debate as she continues to communicate directly with voters across the district.”

Campagna, an environmental scientist and business owner, said Gabbard is more interested in a national stage than representing the people of Hawaii. And that by evading debates, Gabbard prevented constituents from holding her accountable for her “sketchy alliances” with foreign dictators. "Her voting record and her international policy would certainly crack her front-facing persona, and I know that she doesn’t want that to happen,” Campagna told Hawaii News Now.

Gabbard was one of the few members of Congress to be present at Standing Rock. However, according to Civil Beat, "Gabbard was called out by a Native Hawaiian activist, who criticized her for not being present in her own district, where indigenous groups were fighting over everything from Maui water rights to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea."

There are now four Native women running for Congress. Campagna, Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, in New Mexico, Sharice Davids, Ho Chunk, in Kansas, and Amanda Douglas, Cherokee in Oklahoma. All four are Democrats. There are seven Native men running for Congress. Representatives Mark Wayne Mullin, Cherokee; Tom Cole, Chickasaw; both in Oklahoma and both Republicans as well as Dino Ross, Tlingit, in Washington. Democrats James Singer, Navajo, in Utah; and Jason Nichols, Cherokee, Oklahoma. Two independent party candidates, Henry John Bear, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Green Party, Maine; and, Ray "Skip" Sandman, independent, Minnesota.

The #NativeVote18 list.

Related: Indigenous Hawaiian candidates make bid for Congress.

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