National | Politics

Indian voters continue to favor Bernie Sanders as 2016 presidential race heats up






Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 20, 2016. Photo from Facebook

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton scored a big win at the Nevada caucuses on Saturday but Indian voters continue to lean towards rival Bernie Sanders.

According to the Nevada Democratic Party, Clinton won the state with 53 percent of the vote. Sanders trailed with 47 percent of the vote.

But Sanders was the clear favorite in caucuses on and near reservations. In Elko County, where Native Americans represent 6.1 percent of the population, the Senator from Vermont easily defeated Clinton by a 57 to 43 percent margin thanks to members of the Te-Moak Tribe.

The results in neighboring Lander County, where Native Americans are 5.6 percent of the population, were even more stark. There, Sanders had a whopping 41 percentage point lead over Clinton, with his votes coming from residents of the Battle Mountain Band Colony.

Clinton did mange to win Mineral County, where 16.9 percent of the population is Native American, the largest proportion in the state. But the former Secretary of State and former Senator from New York emerged with just 5 more votes than Sanders.

However, Clinton owes her victory in that county to members of the Walker River Paiute Tribe. According to the results, the precinct that includes the reservation gave her a comfortable lead over Sanders.

With two wins in the first three primaries of the 2016 election cycle, Clinton promised to listen to everyday Americans as the race enters the Super Tuesday portion. After Tuesday's vote in South Carolina, Democrats are heading to the polls in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and Virginia on March 1.

"If we listen to the voices of Flint, and Ferguson, if we open our hearts to the families of coal country, and Indian country, if we listen to the hopes and heartaches of hardworking people across America, it's clear there is so much more to be done," Clinton said after winning in Nevada, according to the transcript.


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters in Nevada on February 20, 2016. Photo from Bernie 2016

Sanders didn't mention the Indian vote in Nevada, instead pointing out that he came from behind and "ended up in a very close election." He also claimed he won the Latino vote in the Silver State. Native Americans represent just 1.6 of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with Hispanics representing 27.8 percent.

“I am also proud of the fact that we have brought many working people and young people into the political process and believe that we have the wind at our back as we head toward Super Tuesday," said Sanders, who lost to Clinton in Iowa earlier this month but won the Indian vote thanks to members of the Meskwaki Tribe.

Both campaigns reached out to Indian voters in Iowa and Nevada and will be continuing those efforts as the National Congress of American Indians meets in Washington, D.C., Ann O'Leary, a senior policy advisor with Clinton's campaign is due to address tribal leaders at the executive council winter session on Tuesday afternoon, according to the agenda. Nicole Willis, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, will be representing the Sanders campaign on Wednesday morning.

No Republican candidates appear on the schedule so far. At NCAI's annual conference last October in California, surgeon Ben Carson, whose campaign has performed poorly in the primaries, was the only GOP hopeful who participated through a video message.

"If they couldn't send something, then shame on them," Randy Noka, a leader of the Narragansett Tribe and the vice president of NCAI, said to applause at the time.

Clinton and Sanders sent representatives to the event, along with video messages.

Republicans voted in South Carolina on Saturday real estate mogul Donald Trump secured 32.5 percent of the vote and the largest number of delegates. Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida who has won the endorsement of Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, came in second. Ted Cruz, the Senator from Texas, finished third.

Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, dropped out on Saturday after yet another poor showing at the polls.

Republicans are voting in Nevada on Tuesday and in the six Super Tuesday states on March 1.

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