Markwayne Mullin: I'm running for re

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Cherokee Nation citizen Markwayne Mullin announces re-election bid

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) is running for re-election despite promises to serve only three terms in the U.S. Congress.

Mullin, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, made the announcement in a video on Tuesday. He acknowledged he was breaking his campaign pledge but said there was more work to do on behalf of residents of Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.

"So we go back to the question, can we make a difference?" Mullin said with his wife, Christie, at his side.

"I've seen such a turnaround with the new administration, with President Trump, that when we came to the conclusion, the answer was yes, yes we can make a difference," Mullin said.

Mullin first won election in November 2012 and has been re-elected twice. He is just one of two citizens of a federally-recognized tribe in Congress -- the other being Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), who hails from the Chickasaw Nation.

But unlike his colleague, who has helped secure passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Violence Against Women Act, Mullin is not known for any major achievements. Instead, he blamed the prior administration of Barack Obama, a Democrat, for holding back his agenda.

According to Mullin, working with the Obama administration, was like "beating our head against the wall." He claimed that it was nearly impossible to work with the executive branch when it was under Democratic rule.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) addresses the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on February 15, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Cole, in contrast, was a repeat guest at the White House Tribal Nations Conference and visited the White House frequently for bill signings during the Obama years. He won praise from Democrats for helping to secure more funding for tribal programs in the last decade or so.

Since the start of the 115th Congress in January, Mullin has been hoping to prove himself by engaging in efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. He told tribal leaders in February that he was "neck-deep" in talks about a replacement for the landmark law, which includes a permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

"It is vitally important to Indian Country," Mullin said of the IHCIA during the National Congress of American Indians winter session in Washington, D.C.

Yet tribal advocates largely credit Cole with ensuring that the Indian component was protected when the replacement bill finally emerged. They say his close ties with the Republican leadership made a difference in the language found in H.R.1628, the American Health Care Act, despite misgivings about other provisions of the package.

Mullin, who describes Cole as "mentor" and a "friend," also has been making a name for himself as close ally of President Donald Trump. He served as chairman of the Native American Coalition during the Republican candidate's campaign and has tried to pitch the new administration as friendlier to Indian Country when it comes to regulations and energy and economic development.

So far this year, Mullin has introduced just one tribal bill. H.R.183 seeks to help the Miami Nation resolve a land claim in Illinois by referring the matter to a federal court.

In the spring 2017 issue of the tribe's newsletter, Chief Douglas Lankford called Mullin a "good friend and advocate" for continuing to seek passage of the bill.

Mullin is co-sponsoring other tribal legislation, including H.R.2915, the Save Oak Flat Act. The bill repeals a land swap that paved the way for a controversial mine at Oak Flat, a sacred Apache site in Arizona.

If Mullin secures the Republican nomination for his district, he would proceed to the November 2018 election. He won election in November 2016 with nearly 71 percent of the vote.

The 2nd Congressional District includes large portions of the Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation but the majority of population is non-Native. About 16 percent of the population is Native, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.