Whew. The primary season for 2018 is almost over -- at least for Indian Country. And just in time, too. Now candidates can gear up for their general election campaigns from Labor Day to Nov. 6, 2018.
Almost. There are still a few states to vote: Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, and Delaware. But as far as #NativeVote18 candidates … this week is the wrap.
But even before the general campaign season begins, it's worth noting that this has been an incredible year for Native American women who have chosen to run for office. And Arizona is no different with four Native American women seeking Senate seats. (Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, Navajo, is running unopposed in the primary.)
Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, Pascua Yaqui, is only one of four Native Americans that are currently serving in the state legislature and a member of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus.
In June that caucus condemned the separation of immigration parents and children. Gonzales said after the Trump administration backed down on family separation that “we need to continue to be indignant about what happened at the border” and press for a more just approach. She also toured a detention facility, a visit she dismissed as staged. "This facility is in my district,” she said pm Facebook. "So I'm very concerned and I would like to be able to do random, come in and see what's happening, not staged like it was today."
Gonzales is facing a primary contest against Betty Villegas, an educator.
A former member of the House, Victoria Steele, is also running for the Senate. Steele, Seneca and Mingo, served on the board of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. She was also a candidate for Congress two years ago.
This time around Steele is competing against a self-described moderate, Jim Love. Tuesday’s primary is the election. No Republican bothered to run in November.
Steele told The Tucson Weekly that Arizona Democrats have a chance to take control of the state House or Senate this time around. "I think young people, I think women, I think minorities are going to lead the way," she told the Weekly. "Things are changing. And I really do believe that a lot of what we're seeing right now is the last dying, desperate gasp of a group that is losing power, and it terrifies them."
Steele wrote an op-ed for the Tucson Star saying it’s time to turn #metoo into #nomore. “Silence is the thing that allowed sexual harassment to grow and fester unabated. Ripping away the veil of silence is the only thing that will prevent it going forward,” she wrote. “The thing about lifting that veil is that it’s like ripping the scab off an infected wound — it might not feel good but it has to happen. Now that we know, we can’t go back and unknow this terrible truth, we have to figure out what to do about it. The continuing revelations leave us with a lot of questions and few easy answers.”
Debbie Manuel Nez is a newcomer to elective politics and she is challenging an incumbent, Juan Mendez.
A Facebook post by Nez captures her energy -- and the way she looks at politics. “Ya'ahteeh! Do you live in this area? ...Tempe, Mesa, South Phoenix or Salt River Indian Community? My name is Debbie Nez-Manuel, Tsenjikini. I am enrolled in Navajo Nation (Klagetoh Chapter) and reside with my husband and family in Salt River among the Auk-Mierl Aw-AwThum & Piipaash (Pima & Maricopa) … Have you heard? I am running for Arizona State Senator.”
Like many candidates in Arizona this season, education is one of the issues that Nez campaigns on. “Restoring dollars to public education budgets and creating greater accountability for these dollars remains my top priority,” she said on her web page. “As we know, charter schools are still lacking meaningful transparency and accountability. If elected, I plan to collaborate with stakeholders to strengthen our public schools with school budgets that make sense.
Lisa Blackhorse, who is a Democratic party leader in the state, posted on Facebook recently that there are many reasons to support Nez. “We got to meet Debbie and her girls many many years ago in the Phoenix Indian Center Navajo Singing class, where our children learned to sing Navajo songs and performed throughout the city at various events. As urban Natives it's often hard to keep our heritage alive and this brought many of us together to continue our traditions as Native People … I could go on and on about her resume, experience but encourage you to read her website.”
Election liveblog atIndianCountryToday.com
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter -@TrahantReports
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