The campaigns: ‘A call to service’

Danyell Lanier, Cherokee Nation, is running as an uncontested democrat in Oklahoma's 2nd congressional district. (Photo courtesy of Danyell Lanier)

Aliyah Chavez

There are at least 14 Native candidates running for the United States House and Senate in the 2020 election cycle #NativeVote20

As the November general election gets closer, the list of Native people running for Congress is changing. Candidates drop out. And some decide to throw their name in the hat before their state’s filing deadline.

Since Indian Country Today published a comprehensive list of candidates in mid-February, there are names to add and they happen to all be Democrats. Danyell Lanier is campaigning Oklahoma, Darren Parry is running in Utah and Tricia Zunker won her primary election in Wisconsin.

Dineh Benally ended his bid to represent New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district.

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The latest tally shows 14 Native candidates are looking to represent in the Congress. At least 11 of them are running for House seats and three are in Senate campaigns. Eight of the candidates are women and six are men. Eight are Democrats and six are Republicans.

(Previous story: 12 Native candidates for Congress: If elected ... 'It will be a great day')

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(Photo by Danyell Lanier, campaign website)

Danyell Lanier
Cherokee Nation
U.S. House of Representatives, Oklahoma, District 2
Democrat

Danyell Lanier, Cherokee, is running as an uncontested democrat in Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district. This seat is currently held by Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation, and a Republican. He is seeking his 5th term.

Lanier served in the U.S. Navy and currently works in the healthcare industry as an organizational trainer. Lanier said she is running for Congress because she “felt a call to service” after accompanying her elderly mother to her doctor’s appointments.

“The wait times were very long. There was limited access and I realized very quickly there were issues there,” Lanier said. “I got tired of asking where our representation was so I stepped up.”

Lanier’s lists of priorities include protecting small businesses, improving rural healthcare, protecting the environment and improving ‘aging’ infrastructure. Previously, Lanier unsuccessfully ran for the Collin County commissioners court judge in Texas in 2018. 

Lanier has raised more than $3,400 for her campaign, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. Oklahoma’s primary election will happen on June 30 where Lanier currently faces no opponents. The filing deadline is April 10. 

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(Photo by Darren Parry, Facebook)

Darren Parry
Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation
U.S. House of Representatives, Utah, District 1
Democrat

Darren Parry, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, is a candidate to represent Utah’s 1st Congressional district. Rob Bishop, the current Republican congressman, said he will not seek reelection. Parry is currently the chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

On Feb. 20, Parry announced his candidacy on KVNU, a northern Utah radio station and later tweeted a campaign graphic. Parry also recently published, “The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History” and has been traveling around Utah and Idaho to share stories of his people, the Herald Journal reported.

Parry does not currently have a campaign website and there is also no current data on Parry’s fundraising efforts listed on the Federal Election Commission website. The primary election will happen in Utah on June 30 where Parry will face two other democrats to win his party’s nomination. 

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(Photo by Tricia Zunker, campaign website)

Tricia Zunker
Ho-Chunk Nation
U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin, District 7
Democrat

Tricia Zunker, Ho-Chunk, is running in a special election to represent Wisconsin’s 7th congressional district. Last week Zunker won her primary election after receiving 88 percent of the vote. Her name will now be on the ballot in May for the state’s special election.

If Zunker wins May’s special election, she will officially be elected as the third Native woman to serve in this session of Congress. If elected, Zunker would be the first woman to ever represent Wisconsin’s 7th district in Congress.

“This is another overdue representation,” Zunker said. “And people shouldn't vote for me because I am a woman. They should vote for me because I am a qualified Indigenous woman who is going to get the job done. It is high time my Indigenous relatives, our young girls and our women see themselves reflected in congressional leadership. Representation matters.”

When Zunker is not campaigning, she is an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court and Wausau School Board member.

Zunker has raised more then $145,000 for her campaign since Oct. 2, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. Voters will head to the polls May 12 to vote in the special election. Zunker is competing against GOP candidate Lawrence Dale for this open congressional seat.

(Related: Tricia Zunker says it's back to work after Wisconsin primary victory)

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com

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