Letter to the Editor: Elections were devastating for Indian Country

Dear Friend,
Submitted on November 3rd 2010

November election results were devastating for Indian Country.  Like you, I am outraged by the Republicans lies, and racist dirty tricks used against our INDN candidates and disgusted by the corporate and special interest money that funded them.  There are a few bright spots, which we’ve highlighted at the end of this letter, but we cannot ignore the fact that last night the political power of American Indians was set back decades.


We are deeply disappointed by the loss of progressive champions like the only Indian in the Pennsylvania Assembly, Representative Barbara McIlvaine Smith who was narrowly defeated and Washington State Senator Claudia Kauffman, the first and only Indian woman in that state’s chamber, who is currently behind in the vote tally.  Our efforts to put the first Indian in the Wisconsin Assembly by electing Mert Summers were thwarted.  Likewise, in our three statewide races, Arizona Secretary of State candidate Chris Deschene, Oklahoma’s State Auditor Steve Burrage, and South Dakota’s candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands, Bob Pille were all pilloried.

And, one of our biggest heartbreaks was Jeff Jones' loss to Race Baiting, Rex Duncan in the District Attorney’s race in Pawnee and Osage Counties in Oklahoma.  The Republicans use of hate and race drove voters away from the most qualified candidate.

In South Dakota, two wonderful volunteers from Maryland and INDN’s List supporters traveled to Julie Garreau’s district to help with GOTV activities. Unfortunately, that was not enough and Julie was unable to retake this State Senate seat from the incumbent who had switched parties from Democrat to Republican.

Today we wonder why do we do this?  Why do we keep fighting?  I still believe in the same things and hold the same values today that I did yesterday.  The work of INDN’s List is much more than just winning elections, it is about inspiring people who have no hope for a better tomorrow, it is about showing our Indian boys and girls that they can be what they can see, that they too can and should dream big dreams.

There is no better example of this than Kiowa tribal member, Maya Torralba, who lost her challenge to an entrenched Republican State Representative in Oklahoma last night, when she said, “This campaign isn’t about me, it’s about us.  It’s about getting political power for future generations.  Our brothers and sisters will be inspired and know that they can do it.”

But, clearly, Indian Country and America suffered a major setback yesterday.  In January, we will have far fewer Indians holding office than we do now.  In addition to those already mentioned, in Alaska we lost Representative Woodie Salmon, in Missouri we lost Clay County Clerk Tom Brandom, in Montana we lost Representatives Frosty Boss Calf Ribs and J. David Roundstone as well as Cheryl Lynn Littledog who was running for a Democratic open-seat, and in Oklahoma we lost State Representative Ken Luttrell.


In spite of the Republican landslide INDN’s List did win 12 of our 27 races.  In Oklahoma we won our only State Senate Race, John Sparks and will be sending three superstars back to the State House of Representatives: Al McAffrey, Seneca Scott, and Cory Williams.

INDN’s List candidate John Oceguera won reelection in Nevada and is in line to become the new Speaker of the House.  Representative Patrick Goggles won reelection and will remain the Minority Leader in the Wyoming State House.  James Ramos will remain President of the San Bernardino Community College Board.  Carolyn Peace Lopez will remain in the Montana State House and Shannon Augare will join the Montana State Senate.  Albert Hale will take a seat in the Arizona State House.  In the Washington State House, John McCoy and Jeff Morris both retained their seats.

This cycle, Republican special interest groups and corporations spent more on elections than ever before.  Unfortunately, INDN’s List had less money than in past cycles.  We tried to help more candidates with fewer resources, and in most races we just could not compete.  We extend a special thank you to the NEA, IBEW, TWU, San Manuel Band, Ho Chunk Nation, Cherokee Nation, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Muckleshoot Tribe, and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

This way too short list of unions and tribes (and a few very special individuals) take sole credit for our INDN candidates winning the seats we did. And, to each of you who has generously given your time, energy and financial contributions to help INDN’s List this year, thank you for all you did to help the First Americans take and keep our rightful seats in the halls of power!

Yakoke, “Thank You,” in Choctaw.

Kalyn Free

President, INDN's List