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Office of Dr. Gavin Clarkson

A former Trump administration Indian Affairs official running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico says tribal voters likely played a critical role in Tuesday night’s special election in North Carolina's ninth congressional district and could have a similarly decisive impact in his own race next year.

Despite the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's last-minute, five-figure ad blitz targeting the Lumbee Tribe in North Carolina's ninth congressional district, Dr. Gavin Clarkson, the nation’s leading scholar in tribal finance and a tribal member himself, credits Republican Dan Bishop’s aggressive outreach efforts in Indian Country for achieving a fourteen-point swing towards the GOP in Robeson County. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Democratic nominee Dan McCready may have hamstrung his appeal with Lumbee voters, Clarkson suggests, given her disputed heritage claims and ham-handed handling of Indian Country issues. Unlike Warren, Clarkson is an enrolled tribal member and has attracted financial support from his own tribe. Clarkson has also aired tribal language radio spots.

Clarkson concurred with Bishop’s assessment that most tribal members “have very traditional conservative values, they are opposed to abortion on demand, they are serious about the protection of the Second Amendment, they support the president in terms of regaining control of our southern border.”

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Clarkson’s analysis found similar voter registration patters between tribal areas in Robeson County and New Mexico as a whole. 

“In Robeson County, only 12 percent of self-reported Native American voters were Republicans,” Clarkson said. “And yet, although Democrat Dan McCready carried Robeson County by more than fourteen points in 2018,” according to Clarkson, “Dan Bishop’s outreach to tribal members made a huge difference, as the Lumbee dominated precincts in western Robeson County swung the most towards the Republican candidate. Tuesday’s result demonstrates how Indian Country can be a swing vote in close elections, as will likely be the case in my campaign to flip New Mexico’s open US Senate seat.”

About Dr. Clarkson

In addition to holding both a BA and an MBA from Rice University, Dr. Gavin Clarkson is a cum laude graduate of the Harvard Law School where he was president of the Native American Law Students Association, a member of the Federalist Society, and the first tribal member to earn a doctorate from the Harvard Business School. 

Named the nation’s “leading scholar in tribal finance” by The Financial Times, Dr. Clarkson has been cited by Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today on matters of tribal finance, economic development, and federal Indian law, subjects he has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Montana, the University of Houston, and New Mexico State University.

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