She’s running as a Republican where she has championed better education outcomes for Native students. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Ojibwe, is running as a Democrat.
A barrier broken. History. And another first.
So just another day in the 2018 election cycle.
Let’s not bury the lede here. Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake, has been picked by a Republican candidate for Minnesota governor, Jeff Johnson, as his running mate.
That would be the office of Lt. Governor.
Bergstrom ran for the state Senate two years ago as a Republican in an area that mostly elects Democrats. And before that campaigned for a House seat. She’s been a party regular and engaged on issues ranging from education to being an advocates for gun owners.
The campaign’s web page describes Bergstrom as the first in her family to graduate from college. It says: “Donna joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve, earning a commission through the Officer Candidate School. She went on to serve over 20 years as an Intelligence Officer handling some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets before retiring in 2010 at the grade of Lieutenant Colonel.”
At the announcement, Bergstrom told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “We come from a people that have had our language taken from us, our guns taken from us, our land taken from us. So we’re very adamant about supporting our culture and our ways, and that lines up perfectly with the Republican Party.”
Bergstrom said the state fails American Indian students and she hopes to work on education issues. Two years ago she campaigned on education as well.
She wrote at the time, “… in the State of Minnesota, American Indian students graduate at about a 49 percent rate, far below that of their non-Native peers. In many of the schools throughout the state, the numbers are actually lower. When education is not an expected goal or shared experience in nearly 50 percent of our youth, our societal foundation is weakened. Gone are the children’s options for the future of their education, for employment opportunities, and for their prospects of serving a productive role in our society.”
She has advocated for “vouchers, education credits, and policies that support ‘child-focused’ learning. She said: “We must continue to look out, as cherished in Native American communities, seven generations to see how our policies and practices of today affect our future generations.”
The campaign website says she adds a diverse background to the race. “She is a committed, small-government conservative who draws on her military and civilian careers to bring a unique perspective to the political process … She recently worked as a Guardian ad Litem in the 6th Judicial District for the State of Minnesota helping children who would otherwise not have a voice in court.”
There are now two #NativeVote18 candidates for the office of lieutenant governor in Minnesota. Rep. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Ojibwe, is running on the Democratic side.
Across the country there are three Native women running for that office, the two in Minnesota, plus Anastasia Pittman, Seminole, in Oklahoma. Pittman is also a Democrat.
And Alaska’s Lt. Governor Byron Mallott is Tlingit.