National | Politics

Chickasaw candidate faces questions about tribal connections

T.W. Shannon, Republican of Oklahoma. Courtesy photo

T.W. Shannon, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, has launched an historic campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in Oklahoma but not all of his fellow Republicans are on board.

Tea Party activists claim Shannon can't be trusted due to his tribal citizenship and his ties to Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), also Chickasaw. The sentiment was reflected in a Facebook posting by a prominent supporter of Rep. James Lankford (R), who's running for the seat.

“Btw, the Indians aren’t Oklahomans,” rancher Robert Dan Robbins wrote, The New York Times reported. “They are a member of their own nation and are suing the state of Oklahoma over water rights and other things as well.”

Shannon has made no secret of his Chickasaw ancestry. But he tells the Times: “I’m an American first, and that’s the most important thing."

The tribe supports Shannon, Gov. Bill Anoatubby told The Oklahoman last month, but appears to be keeping its distance, at least in terms of money. The tribe has not contributed to his campaign, the paper noted.

If elected, Shannon would be the third enrolled tribal member in Congress. Besides Cole, there's Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Cherokee Nation.

Shannon would also only be the second federally recognized tribal member to serve in the Senate in the last 100 years. Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was the first.

The Senate seat is open due to the retirement and early departure of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a former member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Get the Story:
G.O.P. Hopeful Finds Tribal Tie Cuts Both Ways (The New York Times 5/4)
Oklahoma Republicans net biggest gains from voter registration changes (The Oklahoman 4/26)
Oklahoma Tea Party leaders not on board with T.W. Shannon (The Oklahoman 4/26)
Tea party eats its own in Oklahoma (Politico 4/24)

Also Today:
Isaac Chotiner: How Many G.O.P. Racial Pathologies Can Fit in One News Story? (The New Republic 5/4)

Related Stories:
Chickasaw man wins endorsement in campaign for Senate seat (03/27)
T.W. Shannon, Chickasaw Nation citizen, running for Senate (2/5)
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby won't run for Senate (1/21)
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to resign and leave early (1/17)
Chickasaw man on track to serve as Oklahoma House speaker (10/17)

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