'Our common cause' with Native candidates

Chris Stearns, Navajo, celebrates his election Nov. 5 to the Auburn, Washington, City Council with his daughter, Stephanie Sxhaalghen Masterman, at Oddfellas Pub & Eatery in Auburn. He is the first Native American elected to the Auburn City Council. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Kaajeesta Dalton)

UPDATED: #NativeVote19 elections roundup: Native American candidates elected to city councils, school boards in Washington, Kansas

Richard Walker and Kolby KickingWoman

One year out from the 2020 election, a number of Native candidates across the country were on the ballot for local elections. The following is a nation-wide roundup of those who won, lost and ballot initiatives that impact Indian Country. Check out our live-blog coverage from last night.

WASHINGTON

Local voters in Washington state elected several Native Americans to the county office, city councils, and school boards Nov. 5.

One of the highest-profile races was in Seattle’s City Council District 5, where Debora Juarez, Blackfeet, was leading in her bid for a second term. In nearby Auburn, Seattle Indian Health Board president Chris Stearns, Navajo, became the first Native American elected to the City Council in that city. He was unopposed.

"I am grateful to the voters because this election is about what we can do for them,” Stearns said at an election night event. “Our common cause from this day forward is to harness our collective resiliency, optimism, courage, and kindness to make our community and our city stronger. … I am ready to get to work with my fellow council members, the mayor, residents, and businesses to move Auburn forward and make Auburn a place we are all proud to call home."

Debora Juarez (left) posing for photos at an event on Sept. 28.
Debora Juarez (left) posing for photos at an event on Sept. 28.(Photo courtesy of Debora Juarez Campaign | Facebook)

The night before the election, Juarez was busy doing council work. She’s a member of the regional transit board, chairwoman of the City Council’s Civic Development, Public Assets & Native Communities Committee, vice chairwoman of the council’s Housing, Health, Energy & Workers’ Rights Committee, and a member of the council’s Human Services, Equitable Development & Renter Rights Committee.

She worked with the Native community and law enforcement to make Murdered, Missing and Indigenous Women and Girls a priority and to establish policies to prevent future violence. She also secured funding for a light rail station, a new sports arena for the NBA and NHL, a new community center, a pedestrian and bike bridge over a freeway that bisects her district, and services for people facing homelessness.

In her second term, she wants to see those projects to completion, build a new police precinct building in her district, and create an apprenticeship program at a local college that will train workers for high-demand jobs in local industries.

Of her reelection, she said, “It says something about me – that I roll up my sleeves and do the work, that I’ve been successful at moving things forward and want to get things done.”

Here’s how the vote stood as of election night in Washington state:

County office

  • Steve Oliver, Lummi, was unopposed for a fourth term as the Whatcom County Treasurer. Oliver directs an office that handles $1.5 billion in financial transactions annually for local taxing districts; bills and collects more than $250 million in property taxes each year; and manages a $250 million county investment pool.

City councils

  • Ashley Brown, Nooksack, was unopposed for a position on the City Council in Everson, a city of 2,481 located eight miles south of the U.S./Canadian border.
  • Debora Juarez, Blackfeet, was reelected to a second term on the Seattle City Council from District 5, receiving 57.28% of the vote to lawyer Ann Davison Sattler’s 42.28%.
  • Chris Stearns, Navajo, was unopposed for a position on the City Council in Auburn, a city of 70,180 located south of Seattle; a portion of the city is within the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation. Stearns is president of the Seattle Indian Health Board and former chairman of the Washington State Gambling Commission and the Seattle Human Rights Commission.
  • Teresa Noreen Taylor, Lummi, was waiting for late returns and mailed ballots to determine if she’ll win a second term on the City Council in Ferndale, a community of 14,000 that neighbors the Lummi Nation Reservation. Election night, the economic development project manager for the Lummi Nation had 48.82% of the vote to lower-taxes advocate Paul Shuey’s 49.64%.
  • Also waiting for late returns and mailed ballots: Diana White, Potawatomi, who had 45.81% of the vote to retired court administrator Susan Paine’s 53.83% in the race for City Council Position 6 in Edmonds, a city of 40,000 located 15 miles north of Seattle. White is currently president of the Edmonds School Board.

School boards

  • Marlys Baker, Swinomish, had 65.78% of the vote to 33.48% for incumbent Janie Beasley, Swinomish, in a bid for the school board in La Conner, across the channel from the Swinomish Reservation. Baker is a community health representative for the Swinomish Tribe’s health department.
  • Titus Capoeman, Quinault, was unopposed for reelection to the school board in Taholah, on the Quinault Nation Reservation.
  • Greg Colfax, Makah, was unopposed for reelection to the school board in Cape Flattery, on the Makah Nation Reservation and the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States.
  • Jessie Deardorff, Lummi, was unopposed for a position on the school board in Ferndale.
  • Chandra Hampson, Winnebago/White Earth Chippewa, was leading in her bid for Seattle School Board, District 3. Hampson, an economic development consultant, and non-profit manager had 65.53% of the vote to social justice advocate Rebeca Muniz’s 33.9%.
  • Meghan Jernigan, Choctaw, was ahead of incumbent Michael Jacobs in her bid for the District 1 position on the Shoreline School Board. Jernigan, a public health researcher at Washington State University, had 53.79% of the vote to Jacobs’s 45.84%.
  • Merian Juneau, Quinault, was unopposed for reelection to the Taholah School Board.
  • Cindy Webster-Martinson, Suquamish, an educator and former member of the Suquamish Tribal Council, was waiting for late returns and mailed ballots to determine if she’ll be reelected to the North Kitsap School Board. On election night, Webster-Martinson was leading with 50.48% of the vote to 49.07% for Kim Gerlach, retired maintenance lead for the school district.
  • Tracey Rascon, Makah, was unopposed for reelection to the Cape Flattery School Board.
  • Jenny Slagle, Yakama, was leading in her bid for Spokane School Board Position 2. She is the director of community service for a non-profit that connects people to health care. She had 54.14% of the vote to substitute teacher Kelli MacFarlane’s 44.9%.

KANSAS

Two Native women were among the top-four vote getters, winning seats on the Lawrence School Board in Kansas. Carole Cadue-Blackwood, Kickapoo, and Paula Smith, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, came in third and fourth respectively.

Cadue-Blackwood was a leading voice in changing the name of a middle school in Lawrence from South Middle School to Billy Mills Middle School.

Lawrence, KS school board
(Screenshot by Kolby KickingWoman)

Rhonda LeValdo, a reporter for National Native News, spoke with both women last night. 

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OKLAHOMA

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation held their primary elections before the general election takes place Dec. 14. A number of positions were voted on, including Principal Chief and Secondary Chief, as well as seven seats on the National Council.

David Hill lead the field of six candidates for Principal Chief but did not receive more than 51 percent of the vote and will move moving on to a run-off.

Official results of the primary will be released Friday evening. 

MCN Principal Chief election
(Screenshot by Kolby KickingWoman)

UTAH

A ballot initiative in San Juan County that would expand the three-member county commission to five members appears to be on its way to defeat. The county overlaps with the Navajo Nation and Natives took a majority on the commission last year. If passed, some see it as a move to undermine the Native vote within in the county.

Prior to yesterday’s vote, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez urged voters in San Juan County to reject the proposition.

Turnout was more than 50 percent even in an off-year election, according to the San Juan Record.

There is a delay in these results due to the far distances to obtain the ballots, according to the San Juan Record. Utah votes by mail so mail is still being retrieved.

Indian Country Today will continue to follow this vote in San Juan County.

NEW MEXICO

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Verland Coker, Muskogee (Creek) Nation, ran for one of three open school board seats. As one of three candidates vying for this position, Coker garnered 14.5 percent of the vote.

ABQ dist 4 school board
(Screenshot by Kolby KickingWoman)

Although he did not win, Coker said he plans to run again, according to KUNM. 

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Richard Walker, Mexican/Yaqui, is a writer based in Anacortes, Washington.

Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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