Mark Trahant: Native candidate drops out of race for Congress

John Oceguera, a member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe of Nevada, ended his bid for U.S. Congress. Photo from candidate's defunct Facebook page

#NativeVote16 – Nevada congressional bid ends; Cole is challenged; Begay joins Arizona race
By Mark Trahant
Trahant Reports

Will the 2016 election be Indian Country’s best ever? The answer to that question doesn’t depend on who wins the White House, but on how many American Indians and Alaska Natives are elected to Congress, state legislatures, county commissions, and city halls. Real representation starts at the local level and rises to the national level.

There have been a lot of developments this week in the story of Native candidates running for Congress: A Democrat-turned-Republican is running in Arizona; Tom Cole has a challenger from the right; and a Nevada congressional bid ends.

John Oceguera ended his candidacy this week for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. A post on his campaign web site said: “While our polling indicates that there is a path to victory for me in this race, I am also realistic about the amount of funding needed to make that happen in a competitive congressional race. Unfortunately, we have discovered that there simply is not the capacity to reach a threshold of funding to adequately get our message out to voters. I’ve decided to end my campaign for Congress.”

Oceguera is a former fire fighter, Speaker of the Nevada Assembly, and is a member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe. He said this was not an easy decision to make. “But you should know that I’ll be fully engaged in the upcoming election. I’ll work hard to help Hillary Clinton win Nevada in November, send Catherine Cortez Masto to the US Senate, and give the people of Nevada’s fourth congressional district the new, progressive leadership they deserve.”

Tom Cole’s primary challenge
Two Republicans are challenging Rep. Tom Cole in Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.

James Taylor and Shawn Roberts said they are running because Cole has been in office too long.

Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and is a member of Republican leadership. He often plays a substantial role on American Indian and Alaska Native issues. He was a leader in the House for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

New candidate in Arizona’s First
Arizona Sen. Carlyle Begay has joined the crowded race for the first congressional district. Begay left the Democratic Party in November saying that Republicans better reflect the value of “self-determination.”

In a video announcing his party switch, Begay cited many of the social problems facing the Navajo Nation and said “change must happen now.”

Seven Republicans are seeking the Republican nomination. There are more Native American voters — 23.2 percent — in Arizona’s first congressional district than any other in the U.S. Two other Navajos say they are running in that district, Shawn Redd, a Republican, and Kayto Sullivan, a Democrat.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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