On Nov. 6, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs. The polls are seen as a key litmus test halfway through Trump's first term in the Oval Office. The increase in the number of native American candidates is not only in the Congressional races more are also vying for seats in local and state legislatures, as well as governorships. No native American woman has ever served in the U.S. House of Representatives, but a trio of female candidates running in New Mexico and Kansas are hoping to change that. Two are Democrats, the third a supporter of President Donald Trump; however all three hope to make a difference on Capitol Hill and do their tribes proud.
Mark Trahant, the editor-in-chief of Indian Country Today, a specialized digital news platform, says that 100 candidates are seeking office nationwide on all levels of government, including 52 women. Both figures are a record. For Trahant, President Trump was certainly a motivating factor in leading more native Americans to try their luck at the polls. "It certainly was the inspiration for people to say this time, ‘I'm actually going to run and not just talk about it'."
Paulette Jordan and Andria Tupola are hoping to win the governor's mansions in Idaho and Hawaii, respectively.
Seven native American men are also running in the 2018 midterm elections, the total of 10 is double the number of indigenous candidates who ran in 2016. Among the men, Kevin Stitt is running for governor in Oklahoma, which is home to the two native American congressmen currently serving, Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin, both Republicans.
But Christine Marie Sierra, a professor emerita of political science at the University of New Mexico, said the explanation for the record number of native American candidates is a bit more complicated. "It's a longer story. It is a story that has been happening frankly since the 1990s with more women running for office and more women getting elected," especially women of color, Sierra told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Traditionally, voter turnout among native Americans is lower than average, five to 14 percentage points lower.
Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who is expected to win re-election in Oklahoma, said it is "critically important that native Americans have a voice to represent their views and values." "I am always happy to see native Americans running for office, whether they are Democrats or Republicans," Cole told AFP.
His colleague Mullin is running against a fellow member of the Cherokee Nation, Democrat Jason Nichols. Nichols has charged that Mullin is a native American "in name only," and is out of touch with indigenous communities.
"We deserve better," Nichols told AFP, accusing Mullin of "callousness toward our environment, access to health care, protection for women who have been the victims of domestic violence," all key issues for not just natives but all Americans.