Utah congressional primary features one Native candidate

This Sept. 20, 2017, photo shows Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, speaking during a City Council meeting in Wellsville, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP, File)

Aliyah Chavez

Updated: Darren Parry's race had not yet been called as of mid-afternoon Wednesday

Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

Former Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation Chairman Darren Parry is running as a Democrat for an open U.S. House seat in Utah.

He is one of 16 Native candidates still in the running for Congress this year, either in primaries or the November general election.

Parry's race had not yet been called as of mid-afternoon Wednesday. With 74 percent of precincts reporting, he was leading with 52 percent of the vote. 

His bid for office comes after Rep. Rob Bishop announced his retirement from Congress after 17 years. Voters in Tuesday’s primary election voted only by mail.

(Related: Oklahoma's 3 congressional candidates win primaries)

Parry stepped down as chairman to run for Congress but remains on the tribal council.

“I feel really good about the message we’ve gotten out there so far,” Parry, 60, told Indian Country Today.

Utah’s 1st Congressional district, which serves the northern part of the state including the Ute reservation, has not had a Democrat in office since 1981.

Parry was facing off against one opponent for the Democratic Party’s nomination. His opponent, Jamie Cheek, is a district director for the Utah Office of Rehabilitation.

“There’s a big difference between me and my opponent,” Parry said. “I’m more of a moderate Democrat.”

A big policy push for Parry is protecting Utah’s public lands.

“The values that I learned from grandmother about the way we treat our environment and earth are so powerfully instilled in me,” Parry said. He estimates 80 percent of Utah is owned by the federal government. Many wish to sell public lands to private entities.

His campaign boasts endorsements from U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, the Bear River Sunrise Movement and “the Sioux Chef,” Sean Sherman.

Parry is an author of “The Bear River Massacre; A Shoshone History.” He serves on several boards including the American Indian Services Board, American West Heritage Center and the Utah State Museum Board.

Colorado also hosted their statewide primary election on June 30. 

Democrat John Ronquillo, Mexican and Chiricahua Apache, unsuccessfully ran for a state house seat in Colorado. Polling results showed Ronquillo having 49 percent of the vote. His opponent had 51 percent. 

* This story has been updated on Aug. 10 to include information on John Ronquillo's race in Colorado.

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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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Indian Country Today reporter-producer Aliyah Chavez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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