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Record number of Native Americans elected to Congress

Sharice Davids, D-KS, won her second term to the U.S. House on Nov. 3, 2020. (Courtesy photo)

The 2020 election was a historic one for Native American representation in Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives will have its largest number of Native Americans after Tuesday’s elections saw four Natives re-elected and two new Native representatives win first terms.

Veteran Republican Rep. Tom Cole, of Oklahoma, was re-elected to the seat he’s held in the House since 2003, making him the longest serving Native in Congress. He won with 67.8 % of the vote, well ahead of his challenger who had 28.7%. A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Cole represents Oklahoma’s 4th District, is the co-chair of the Native American caucus and serves on the House Appropriations and Rules Committees.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee) cruised to his fifth term in office for Oklahoma’s 2nd District, garnering 75% of the vote. A Republican, Mullin serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committees, the subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations, Health and the Environment and Climate Change.

Deb Haaland, D-NM, won re-election for her second term in the U.S. House on Nov. 3, 2020. (Courtesy photo)

New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) was voted back for a second term thanks to a 58% to 42% win over her challenger. In 2018, Haaland was one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress, along with Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas. Haaland, who represents New Mexico’s 1st District, is the co-chair of the Native American caucus, vice-chair of the Natural Resources Committee, chair of the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and serves on the subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples.

After the election results came in on Nov. 3, Haaland tweeted: “Tonight the people of New Mexico have chosen hope over fear, love over hate, community over division, and I am so honored that New Mexican’s have chosen me to serve in our nation’s 117th Congress.”

Yvette Herrell, R-NM, won her first term to the U.S. House. (Courtesy photo)

New Mexico gained another Native voice in the House with the election of Republican Yvette Herrell (Cherokee) in the state’s 2nd District. Herrell won with 56% of the vote over her challenger, who had 46%. Herrell previously served four terms in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

After the victory, Herrell tweeted: “It’s the honor of my life to be elected to serve #NM02. My commitment to each citizen of our district is that I will serve each of them with integrity as we work together to rebuild our economy and protect the values that make America great!”

Davids (Ho-Chunk) won her second term representing Kansas’s 3rd District. Out of six federal races in Kansas, Davids was the lone Democrat to grasp a victory. She won 53% to 44% against her challenger. Davids, an Army veteran and lawyer, serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure and Small Business Committees and is a member of 16 caucuses including the Native American and LGBT Equality caucuses.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted a congratulatory note to Davids after the election: “Congratulations @ShariceDavids on winning a great reelection victory to continue your historic and impassioned representation of #KS03 and your hard work on behalf of working families across your district.”

Native Hawaiian Kaiali’I “Kai” Kahele won the race to fill former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s seat in Congress. Kahele represents Hawaii’s 2nd District and is the second Native Hawaiian elected to Congress since statehood in 1959. A Democrat, Kahele served in the Hawaiian Senate since 2016.

After his win, Kahele tweeted: “Mahalo Hawai‘i! Words cannot express my deep appreciation to everyone who has believed in our campaign, supported us, voted, & donated! Our challenging work begins now, and I’ll do everything I can to bring our state the resources we need to recover and build a resilient Hawai‘i.”

The 117th Congress will convene Jan. 3, 2021.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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