Miss Navajo Nation Autumn Montoya participates in an early Election Day rally for Deb Haaland, who is seeking to become the first Native woman in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo: Deb Haaland

Election Day: #NativeVote18 races to watch across the nation

• In Arkansas, a gaming initiative backed by the Cherokee Nation and the Quapaw Tribe was approved at the polls.
• In Florida, the Seminole Tribe's gaming initiative was approved by an overwhelming number of voters.
• In Idaho, a gaming initiative opposed by tribes was rejected by voters.
• In Kansas, Sharice Davids, a Democrat, has won her race for U.S. Congress. She is a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
• In New Mexico, Democrat Deb Haaland sailed to victory in her bid for U.S. Congress. She hails from the Pueblo of Laguna. And with votes still being counted, Republican Yvette Herrell (Cherokee) is slightly ahead in her Congressional race.
• In Minnesota, Democrat Peggy Flanagan won election as lieutenant governor. She is a citizen of the White Earth Nation.
• In Oklahoma, Tom Cole (Chickasaw) and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee) won re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Both are Republicans.
• Also in Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, who is Cherokee, became the first Native American elected as governor of the state.
Election Day is finally here and Native candidates across the nation are hoping to secure victory at the polls in what has become a landmark year for the Native vote.

“We are here making history. We must continue to hang on to hope," Miss Navajo Nation Autumn Montoya said at a Tuesday morning rally in support of Deb Haaland, who is poised to become one of the first Native women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"We need Congress to hear our voice, to bring our unique view as Indigenous women to Congress," Montoya said in To’hajiilee, a community on the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Nation.

Here are the #NativeVote18 races to watch on November 6. You'll find information on candidates and campaigns in Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Washington, as well as where to find results as the polls close later in the day.

Alaska | Arkansas | Florida | Idaho | Kansas | Minnesota | Montana | New Mexico | North Dakota | Oklahoma | Washington

Debra Call, a Dena’ina Athabascan and former president of the Knik Tribe, is running for lieutenant governor of Alaska. She is on the Democratic ticket with gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich, a former U.S. Senator and former member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The Republican candidate for governor is Mike Dunleavy, whose wife and children are Native. He is relative newcomer to state politics, having served in the Alaska Legislature between 2013 and 2017. He resigned to run for governor.

In other races to watch, Republican Don Young, whose late wife was Native and whose children and grandchildren are Native, is facing a strong challenge from Alyse Galvin, the Democratic candidate. Both participated in a debate at the recent Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage and both pledged to promote Native issues on Capitol Hill.

Alaska has one sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Young has held it since 1973, making him the longest-serving member of Congress.

About 16 percent of the population in Alaska is Native, and the Native vote has played a key role in prior elections.

Results: elections.alaska.gov, starting at 9pm Alaska time (1am Eastern).

Indianz.Com #Podcast
Indian Times with Kevin and Leo: A Call to Action

The Cherokee Nation and the Quapaw Tribe have poured millions into a gaming initiative in Arkansas in hopes of competing on new casino licenses. Both tribes are experienced players in the industry, owning and operating casinos in neighboring Oklahoma. The initiative appears as Issue 4 on the ballot.

Results: clarityelections.com, starting at 8:30pm Eastern.

The Seminole Tribe has spent a whopping $24.65 million on Amendment 3, a ballot initiative that would place restrictions on new non-Indian gaming facilities. If approved, such proposals would be subject to a vote of the people.

Early returns from Florida Election Watch show a strong lead for Amendment 3, the ballot initiative bankrolled by the Seminole Tribe.

Early returns show the tribe's investment appears to have paid off with voters. As of 8:30pm Eastern, Amendment 3 had secured nearly 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from Florida Election Watch.

Amendment 3 needs 60 percent of the vote to be considered approved. By 9pm, Voters in Charge, the group bankrolled by the tribe, was celebrating victory.

"By their overwhelming vote in support of Amendment 3, Florida voters have given the people, not the politicians and lobbyists, control over gambling," John Sawinski, the president of Voters in Charge, said in a statement. "Florida voters have kicked open the doors of Tallahassee's back rooms and demanded an end to gambling industry influence in the hallways of the capitol."

Results: floridaelectionwatch.gov, starting at 8pm Eastern.

Paulette Jordan on YouTube: Raised by Idaho

Paulette Jordan, a citizen of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is seeking to be the first woman elected as governor in the United States. She is the Democratic nominee and is up against Brad Little, a Republican with long ties to the party's establishment.

In other campaigns, tribes in the state are seeking to defeat a gaming initiative that's on the ballot as Proposition 1. Tribes believe the authorization of electronic machines that display the results of historical horse races violates the promises made in their Class III gaming compacts.

Results: idahovotes.gov, starting at 11pm Eastern time.

Sharice Davids, a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is seeking to make history. She's the Democratic nominee in the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas and has out-polled and out-raised Kevin Yoder, the Republican incumbent who has held the seat for nearly a decade.

If Davids prevails, she could join Deb Haaland and Yvette Herrell as the first three Native women in Congress. Of the three, Haaland and Davids enjoy the strongest chances of success on November 6.

Early results from the Kansas Secretary of State showed that Davids indeed ran a strong campaign. She was already 10 points ahead of Yoder when the first tallies came in after the polls closed on Tuesday evening.

A couple of hours later, the outcome was clear. Davids became the first Native woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Sharice Davids' election is another giant step forward for women, LGBTQ women and women of color — not only does she instantly become a role model for millions, but she provides representation of these communities when we need it most," Stephanie Sandberg, the executive director of LPAC, told Indianz.Com after the historic vote.

LPAC is a political action committee that supports candidates like Davids, who is the first LGBTQ person to secure election in Kansas history. Sandberg was on the ground in the district on Election Day, calling on voters to support the former White House fellow and tribal economic development expert.

"As an organization dedicated to building the political power of LGBTQ women, we at LPAC couldn’t be more thrilled to have endorsed Sharice, and be here to help celebrate her win," Sandberg told Indianz.Com.

Later in the evening, Davids basked in her historic win. But she was quick to strike a tone of unity as she prepares to walk the halls of Congress in the nation's capital.

"It doesn't matter if you cast your vote for me or if you cast your vote for Kevin Yoder. Come January, I see every single person," Davids said at her victory party on Tuesday night. "I hear you and I see you, because the time for people to not be heard, and not be seen and not be listened to, or represented well, changes now."

Results: ent.sos.ks.gov, starting at 8pm Eastern.

Voters in Minnesota will make history this year. They will elect a Native woman as lieutenant governor for the first time.

The Republican choice is Donna Bergstrom, a state lawmaker and citizen of the Red Lake Nation. The Democratic pick is Peggy Flanagan, also a state lawmaker and citizen of the White Earth Nation.

In other campaigns, Skip Sandman, who hails from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, is representing the Independence Party in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. The state has never sent a Native citizen to Congress.

Results: sos.state.mn.us, starting at 9pm Eastern.

Citizens of the Crow Tribe who gathered on November 1, 2018, to protest their chairman's endorsement of Republican politicians drew supporters of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), who is facing a tough re-election fight in Montana. Photos courtesy Donavon Hawk

More than a dozen Native candidates are on the ballot for the Montana Legislature in districts across the state. But the race to watch is the U.S. Senate battle between Democrat Jon Tester, the incumbent, and Republican Matt Rosendale.

As a former chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Tester's record on tribal issues is well known. But in a state where Donald Trump remains very popular, he is trailing Rosendale, whose campaign last week got an unexpected boost (and significant pushback) from the leader of the Crow Tribe.

"It's time to wake up people! The Crow Tribe is not for sale!" Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a state lawmaker and Crow citizen, said at a rally outside of tribal headquarters last week.

Native Americans represent about 6.7 percent of the population. Their votes in the past helped Tester secure victory in 2006 and again in 2012.

Results: mtelectionresults.gov, starting at 10pm Eastern.

New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment is a big one for the Native vote in 2018. There are three tribal citizens on the ballot for federal and state office.

Deb Haaland, who hails from the Pueblo of Laguna, is the Democratic nominee for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District. She has consistently out-polled Republican Janice Arnold-Jones in her bid to become the first Native woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The hard work paid off. Early returns from the New Mexico Secretary of State showed Haaland with a clear and commanding victory, ensuring she is one of the first Native women to serve in the U.S. Congress.

"Tonight, we made history," Haaland said at her victory party in Albuquerque on Tuesday evening.

But there's more. Yvette Herrell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is the Republican nominee in the 2nd Congressional District. She is locked in a tight race against Xochitl Torres Small, the Democrat.

Finally, Gavin Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, is the Republican nominee for Secretary of State. If he defeats Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Democratic incumbent, he would be the first Native American to hold a state-level elected office in New Mexico. He has spent much of his time campaigning in Indian Country and secured approval from the Pueblo of Zia to use the tribe's sacred sun symbol in his campaign logo.

The effort, though, did not pay off. Although results from the New Mexico Secretary of State are still coming in, it became clear on Tuesday evening that Clarkson fell far short in his bid to oust Toulouse Oliver.

Results: electionresults.sos.state.nm.us, starting at 9pm Eastern.

North Dakota
All eyes are on the Native vote in North Dakota after tribes and their advocates first won, then lost, then lost again, a challenge to the state's restrictive voter identification law. Tribes have since been working to ensure their citizens' votes will count at the polls on Tuesday.

The Native vote is seen as crucial for Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in her bid to save her seat in the U.S. Senate. She's been trailing Kevin Cramer, the Republican candidate and current member of the U.S. House, in a state where Donald Trump remains extremely popular.

Native candidates are also on the ballot. They include Ruth Buffalo, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation who is the Democratic candidate for North Dakota House District 27, and Richard Marcellais, a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians who is the Democratic incumbent in Senate District 9.

Results: vote.nd.gov, starting at 8pm Eastern.

Oklahoma is home to 39 federally recognized tribes and the second-largest population of Native Americans. Yet it has never elected a Native American as governor.

Kevin Stitt, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is hoping to change that. He's the Republican nominee for governor, up against Drew Edmondson, a Democrat with long ties to his party's establishment.

But Edmondson has a Native ally in his camp. Anastasia Pittman, a state lawmaker and citizen of the Seminole Nation, is his running mate and would be the first Native lieutenant governor in state history.

Pittman, however, fell short in her landmark run. With almost all of the results in from the Oklahoma Secretary of State, she won less than 35 percent of the vote.

The results were much more favorable for Stitt. With most of the precincts reporting, the Cherokee citizen became the first Native American to win election as governor of Oklahoma.

Tribal citizens in Oklahoma otherwise broke down barriers years ago. Tom Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, is poised to win re-election as the longtime Republican incumbent in the 4th Congressional District.

Unofficial results indeed showed Cole sailed to victory. He secured more than 63 percent of the vote, according to the Oklahoma Secretary of State.

Likewise, Markwayne Mullin, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is well on his way to a fourth term in Congress. He is the Republican incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District.

Mullin, though, faced a historic challenge on Election Day. His Democratic opponent is Jason Nichols, also Cherokee.

Despite the matchup, Mullin emerged victorious with more than 64 percent of the vote, according to the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Nichols, who serves as the mayor of Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, barely got around 30 percent of the vote.

In other races, Ashley Nicole McCray, a citizen of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe with heritage from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is running for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as a Democrat. She was seeking to oversee the state's oil and gas drilling, utilities and telephone industries if elected to the statewide post.

But returns from the Oklahoma Secretary of State show McCray fell short with less than 35 percent of the vote. Few Native citizens have secured statewide office in Oklahoma.

Results: ok.gov/elections, starting at 8pm Eastern.

Tribal leaders and activists have dedicated their time and resources to Initiative 1631 in hopes of addressing the impacts of climate change across the state. The Carbon Emissions Fee Measure would impose a fee on the large emitters of carbon, with the funds going to environmental programs.

Elsewhere, Republican Dino Rossi, who is Tlingit, is seeking to make history in Washington as the state's first Native person elected to Congress. He's running in the 8th Congressional District, an open seat near Seattle.

Results: sos.wa.gov/elections, starting at 11pm Eastern.

FNX | First Nations Experience, Indian Country Today and National Voice One have teamed up to provide coverage of the November 6 election from coast to coast.

Reporters will be stationed across the country to provide updates on the results on a newscast that begin at 6 pm Pacific / 9 pm Eastern. For more information on #NativeElectionNight, including how and where to tune in, visit Indian Country Today.

Alaska | Arkansas | Florida | Idaho | Kansas | Minnesota | Montana | New Mexico | North Dakota | Oklahoma | Washington

Join the Conversation
Trending in News
More Headlines