US House candidates make history

Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele attends the Kailua Parade in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Kai Kahele campaign website)

Election 2020

Updated: Six candidates won their races, giving the next House a record number of Native members  #NativeVote

Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

Native congressional candidates have once again made history this Election Day.

Thirteen Natives from eight states were vying for 11 House seats Tuesday. 

Six won their races, meaning the next U.S. House will have a record number of voting Native members.

Among the familiar faces in Indian Country who will be returning to office: Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, and Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, the first two Native women elected to Congress. Reps. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, also won their reelection bids.

New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, seeks a second term in Congress. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, Indian Country Today)
New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, seeks a second term in Congress. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez, Indian Country Today)

Joining them will be Republican Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, in New Mexico, and Native Hawaiian Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele, a Democrat.

Kahele's win gives Hawaii just its second Native Hawaiian in Congress since statehood.

Related:
 Native candidates light up state, local ballots
 Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, loses Senate bid
 Native vote could affect key Senate races

Meanwhile, Democrat Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, lost her bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Idaho.

Another candidate, independent Mark Charles, Diné, was seeking the presidency. He appeared on the ballot in one state, Colorado, according to his website.

Here's a look at the House races Indian Country Today was watching:

New Mexico

New Mexico had two Native candidates in two races, and they both won.

Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, won a second term in the 1st Congressional District. 

"I was pleased to know that we had so many Native American candidates running across the country, not just for Congress or the Senate, but in House and Senate districts across the country, and local, that's what we need. We need representation in elected office," Haaland said.

"We need to be where folks are making decisions. We need to be a voice at the table, regardless of what table it is but making decisions for our people, for our constituents, for our country. It's absolutely important."

(Related: US Rep. Deb Haaland seeks a second term)

Haaland faced Republican Michelle Garcia-Holmes, a former police detective and administrator for the state attorney general’s office. 

Haaland is co-chair of the Native American caucus, vice-chair on the natural resources committee, chair of the subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands, and a member of the subcommittee for Indigenous peoples.

FILE - In this June 6, 2018, file photo, Deb Haaland, a Democratic candidate for Congress for central New Mexico's open seat and a tribal member of the Laguna Pueblo, sits at her Albuquerque home. More than 100 Native Americans are seeking seats in Congress, governor's offices, state legislatures and other posts across the country in what political observers say has been a record number of candidates. Congressional races in New Mexico and Kansas could determine whether Congress has its first Native American representative. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)
In this June 2018 photo, Deb Haaland, then-Democratic candidate for Congress, sits at her Albuquerque, New Mexico, home. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

She raised more than $2 million in contributions since January 2019, while Garcia-Holmes received nearly $400,000 in the last year, according to Federal Election Commission campaign financial data.

Haaland received nearly 60 percent of the 2018 election votes. The district is in central New Mexico and includes Albuquerque.

Republican Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, won her race in the 2nd Congressional District. Herrell faced a rematch with incumbent Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in a contest that was considered a toss-up. In 2018, Herrell received 49.1 percent of the votes to Torres Small’s 50.9 percent.

However, Herrell had history on her side in 2020.

(Related: Herrell faces tough rematch in swing congressional race)

The district historically leans Republican, particularly in presidential elections, and Herrell was endorsed by President Donald Trump. The district sits along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Herrell previously served four terms in the New Mexico House and calls herself a “conservative Republican with a trusted record of results.”

Herrell raised $2.5 million in contributions since January 2019, and Torres Small received $7.5 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Herrell-Mountain-Range-portrait (1) (1)_
Yvette Herrell(Photo by Yvette Herrell, campaign website)

New Mexico races:

1st Congressional District:

  • WON: Deb Haaland
  • Michelle Garcia-Holmes

2nd Congressional District

  • WON: Yvette Herrell
  • Xochitl Torres Small

Utah

Democrat Darren Parry, Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, lost his bid in Utah’s 1st District.

Parry faced Republican Blake Moore and two independents, Taylor Lee and Mikal Smith, in the general election. Moore won in the race for a seat that was previously held by a Republican who did not seek reelection.

(Related: Shoshone leader competes for Utah US House seat)

The northern Utah district, near Salt Lake City, is historically Republican and hasn’t had a Democratic representative for 42 years.

Parry, a former tribal chairman and self-described moderate, was endorsed by Haaland.

Parry raised $37,386 since February, and Moore raised $741,656 since January. Contributions to Lee and Smith were not readily available.

(Photo courtesy of Darren Parry)
Darren Parry(Photo courtesy of Darren Parry)

Utah race:

1st Congressional District

  • Darren Parry
  • WON: Blake Moore
  • Taylor Lee
  • Mikal Smith

Wisconsin

Tricia Zunker lost her bid to join fellow Ho-Chunk and Democrat Sharice Davids in the House. 

Zunker was running for Wisconsin’s 7th District, a seat that covers 26 counties, nine reservations and roughly one-third of the northern and central part of the state.

She was challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany in a rematch of a special election this past May that filled a seat vacated by a resignation. Tiffany won by roughly 14 percent of the votes.

(Related: Possibly many firsts for Tricia Zunker in Wisconsin)

Zunker is associate justice for the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court and a Wausau school board member, both elected positions.

“I don't ask anybody to vote for me because I'm an Indigenous woman,” Zunker told Indian Country Today earlier this year. “I ask them to vote for me because I am an Indigenous woman who's going to work hard for people in Congress.”

Zunker raised $1.2 million since October 2019, while Tiffany received $2.4 million in contributions.

Tricia Zunker
Tricia ZunkerZunker (Facebook)

Wisconsin race:

7th Congressional District

  • Tricia Zunker
  • WON: Tom Tiffany

Idaho

Rudy Soto, Shoshone-Bannock, lost his race in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, which covers the western part of the state and is heavily Republican.

Soto was challenging incumbent Republican Russell Fulcher and Libertarian candidate Joe Evans. Fulcher won.

Soto served 10 years in the Army National Guard and worked for the nonprofit National Indian Gaming Association and nonprofit National Indian Children Welfare Association.

(Related: Rudy Soto’s ‘bad’ beginning led to politics)

“I'm running for every day Idahoans, Americans and Indigenous peoples from all walks of life who struggle to make ends meet and simply seek a fair shot at the American dream,” Soto previously told Indian Country Today.

Since October 2019, Soto raised $258,633, while Fulcher raised $505,702 since January 2019. Contributions to Evans’ campaign weren’t listed on the Federal Election Commission website.

Pictured: Rudy Soto, Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Member, Democratic Candidate for Idaho's 1st Congressional District.
Rudy Soto (Photo: Rudy for Congress)

Idaho race:

1st Congressional District

  • Rudy Soto
  • WON: Russ Fulcher
  • Joe Evans

Oklahoma

Oklahoma is home to the longest-serving Native members of Congress: Republicans Tom Cole, Chickasaw Nation, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee.

Both won their races Tuesday.

A second Cherokee candidate, Danyell Lanier, a Democrat, made an unsuccessful bid for Mullin’s seat. Libertarian candidate Richie Castaldo was also on the ballot.

Mullin will be serving a fifth straight term in Oklahoma's 2nd District. 

(Related: Cherokee candidates square off in US House race)

The district covers eastern Oklahoma and is 17 percent Native. Mullin received 65 percent and 70 percent of the vote in the last two elections. Mullin is a Trump supporter and was endorsed by the president.

Mullin raised $1.5 million since January 2019, while Lanier raised $30,860 since July 2019. Castaldo hadn’t reported any contributions.

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

Cole is the senior Native member of Congress and has won another term in Oklahoma’s 4th District after first being elected in 2002.

The south-central Oklahoma district is on the southern edge of Oklahoma City and includes the Chickasaw Nation. Democrat Mary Brannon and Libertarian Bob White were also on the general election ballot.

(Related: US Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, eyes 10th term)

Cole is co-chair of the congressional Native American caucus and is the top Republican on the key House Rules Committee. Like Mullin, Cole had been endorsed by Trump.

Cole had raised $1.6 million since January 2019, while Brannon had raised $2,543. Contributions weren’t listed for White.

U.S. Representative Tom Cole - H. Res. 430
(Photo: House of Representatives Committee on Rules)

Oklahoma races:

2nd Congressional District

  • WON: Markwayne Mullin
  • Danyell Lanier
  • Richie Castaldo

4th Congressional District

  • WON: Tom Cole 
  • Mary Brannon
  • Bob White

Wyoming

Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull, Northern Arapaho and Hunkpapa Lakota, lost her bid to unseat an incumbent in Wyoming with a well-known political last name.

Grey Bull was seeking Wyoming’s at-large congressional district seat, against Republican incumbent Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Liz Cheney was first elected to the seat in 2016.

“I just want to thank everybody across the nation that has supported my campaign. Every state has contributed to my campaign except for two states in the U.S.," Grey Bull told Indian Country Today on Tuesday night. "I ran the race for all Indigenous people, for all the tribes across the nation. You know, this time we had a handful of candidates running for House and Senate, but in the future I hope to see hundreds and thousands of candidates running for these seats."

(Related: First-time Native candidate already making history)

Grey Bull was a first-time candidate. A win would have made her the first Native person to hold a federal office in Wyoming.

Jeff Haggit, Constitution Party, and Richard Brubaker, Libertarian Party, were also on the general election ballot.

Grey Bull raised $107,012 since April, while Cheney raised nearly $3 million since January 2019, according to the Federal Election Commission. Contributions for Haggit and Brubaker were not listed.

5f56d374255a4b21a880ccb7_DSC_3272
Lynnette Grey BullPhoto Courtesy of Lynnette Grey Bull

Wyoming race:

At-Large Congressional District:

  • Lynnette Grey Bull
  • WON: Liz Cheney
  • Jeff Haggit
  • Richard Brubaker

Kansas

Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, won a second term in a district on the eastern edge of the state that includes Kansas City.

In 2018, Davids, Ho-Chunk, sent Republican incumbent and four-time winner of Kansas’ 3rd District, Kevin Yoder, home in a general election upset.

(Related: Sharice Davids: ‘Honor of a lifetime’)

Also on the general election ballot was Amanda Adkins, former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman, and Libertarian candidate Steve Hohe.

Davids serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Small Business Committee. She’s a member of 16 caucuses, including co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus and vice-chair of the Native caucus.

Since January 2019, Davids had raised $5.3 million, while her opponent, Adkins, raised nearly $2.1 million. Contributions for Hohe weren’t listed.

U.S. Rep Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, of Kansas. (Photo by Davids campaign)
U.S. Rep Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, of Kansas. (Photo by Davids campaign)

Kansas race:

3rd Congressional District

  • WON: Sharice Davids
  • Amanda Adkins
  • Steve Hohe

Hawaii

Native Hawaiian Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele won a race to fill a seat left open by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who decided not to seek reelection.

The last time a Democrat in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District didn’t get at least 60 percent of the general election vote was nearly 20 years ago, and even that candidate won with 56 percent.

Kaialiʻi “Kai” Kahele, a Democrat and Hawaii state senator, is a candidate for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. (Photo courtesy of Kai Kahele campaign website)
US Rep. Kaialiʻi “Kai” Kahele, Hawaiian, a Democrat, was elected to his first term as representative for Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District on Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Kai Kahele campaign website)

Kahele's win gives the state its second Native Hawaiian in Congress since statehood. The late Sen. Daniel Akaka, who left office in 2013, was the first.

Kahele picked up endorsements from former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Two other Native Hawaiian candidates were on the general election ballot: Republican Joseph Akana and Aloha Aina Party nominee Jonathan Hoomanawanui. American Shopping Party candidate John Giuffre, Libertarian Michelle Rose Tippens and Ron Burrus, nonpartisan, also ran..

(Related: Native Hawaiian candidate a favorite for US House)

The district covers suburban Honolulu and the state’s more rural islands.

Kahele raised $1.1 million since January 2019, while his closest opponent in a distant second place, Akana, raised nearly $50,000, according to Federal Election Commission data. Hoomanawanui listed nearly $2,000 in contributions. Contributions to Giuffre, Tippens and Burrus weren’t listed.

Joseph Akana (Photo courtesy of Joeseph Akana Facebook)
Joseph Akana (Photo courtesy of Joeseph Akana Facebook)Joseph Akana (Photo courtesy of Joeseph Akana Facebook)

Hawaii race:

2nd Congressional District

  • WON: Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele
  • Joseph Akana
  • Jonathan Hoomanwanui
  • John Giuffre
  • Michelle Rose Tippens
  • Ron Burres
Jonathan Hoomanwanui (Photo courtesy of Hoomanwanui campaign)
Jonathan Hoomanwanui (Photo courtesy of Hoomanwanui campaignJonathan Hoomanwanui (Photo courtesy of Hoomanwanui campaign)
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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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This story has been updated with race results and comment from candidates.


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