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Graham Lee Brewer

Special to Indian Country Today

NORMAN, Okla. — All three Native candidates running for Congress in Oklahoma have easily advanced to the November general election.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, won his primary Tuesday with more than 75 percent of the vote, while Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, earned more than 79 percent of the vote. 

Mullin advances to face Danyell Lanier, Cherokee, in November. Lanier ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. 

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

Mullin is seeking a fifth term serving eastern Oklahoma's Congressional District 2. 

The fiscal and social conservative rancher and business owner received some backlash, even from fellow Republican the late Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, during his last reelection for breaking a pledge he made to not seek more than three terms.

Mullin describes his tenure on Capitol Hill as a “duty” and has said in recent interviews that he still feels like he has work to get done before he retires from office.

(Related: Utah congressional primary features one Native candidate)

“He is a strong supporter of President Trump’s agenda to defeat the socialists in Washington, D.C., defend our cherished traditional values and protect the sanctity of life,” according to his campaign website.

U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, ICT)

While Mullin has focused slightly more in recent years on legislation in Indian Country, no policy initiatives are outlined in his current reelection bid. Mullin chaired Trump’s Native American Coalition during the 2016 presidential campaign. His district is largely Republican, and his core issues remain areas like ending abortion, building Trump’s border wall, reversing the Affordable Care Act and reducing regulations and tax codes on private businesses.

Lanier is campaigning on reforming the criminal justice system and policing, increasing access to healthcare and protecting natural resources by ensuring the enforcement of environmental protection laws.

Cole is seeking his 10th term representing Congressional District 4 and is the longest-sitting Indigenous member of Congress. District 4 covers 15 counties in south-central Oklahoma.

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Cole’s reelection platform also leaves out Indian Country policy, but earlier this year he co-sponsored a bill with Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to increase broadband access in Indian Country.

Oklahoma voters also narrowly decided to expand Medicaid health insurance to tens of thousands low-income residents, becoming the first state to amend their Constitution to do so.

With 100% of precincts reporting unofficial results, State Question 802 passed by less than 1 percentage point. The question fared well in metropolitan areas, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but was overwhelmingly opposed in rural counties.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has resisted Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, which has one of the highest rates of uninsured, making it a staple of his political platform.

In Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November. And five-term Colorado U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton was upset in a Republican Party primary by Lauren Boebert, a pistol-packing businesswoman, ardent defender of gun rights and border wall supporter who wants to abolish the U.S. Department of Education.

Also Tuesday, former Marine pilot Amy McGrath overcame a bumpier-than-expected Kentucky primary to win the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination. She fended off progressive Charles Booker to set up a bruising, big-spending showdown with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Voting ended June 23, but it took a week until McGrath could be declared the winner due to the race’s tight margins and a deluge of mail-in ballots.

In Oklahoma, all Five Civilized Tribes were represented on Tuesday’s ballot, as well as candidates from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe.

Oklahoma legislative races with Native candidates:

  • WON: Chelsey Branham, Chickasaw and Cherokee, Democrat, House 83
  • LOST: Matt Hecox, Muscogee Creek, Democrat, Senate 15
  • WON: Mark McBride, Potawatomi, Republican, House 53
  • WON: Summer Wesley, Choctaw, Democrat, House 100
  • WON: Jennifer Wilkinson, Cheyenne and Arapaho, Democrat, Senate 45
  • WON: Scott Fetgatter, Choctaw, Republican, House 16
  • LOST: Carly Hotvedt, Cherokee, Democrat, Senate 35
  • WON: Ajay Pittman, Seminole, Democrat, House 99
  • RUNOFF: Shane Jett, Cherokee, Republican, Senate 17
  • WON: Mike Osburn, Cherokee, Republican, House 81
  • WON: Mark Vancuren, Cherokee, Republican, House 74
  • WON: Brad Boles, Cherokee, Republican, House 51
  • WON: Collin Walke, Cherokee, Democrat, House 87
  • WON: Greg McCortney, Choctaw, Republican, Senate 13
  • LOST: Lundy Kiger, Choctaw, Republican, House 3
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Graham Lee Brewer, Cherokee Nation, is an associate editor covering Indigenous affairs at High Country News and an Indian Country Today contributor based in Oklahoma. Follow him on Twitter: @grahambrewer.

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