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An interesting article over at the Native American Times on the growing number and influence of Native American delegates to the Democratic Convention. According to the article, this year it is anticipated that 150 delegates will be Native Americans, an increase from just 7 in 2000.
Superdelegate Margaret Campbell from Montana is one of these tribal members. She initially supported Barack Obama until she had to rescind due to her role as the Vice Chairman of the Montana Democratic Executive Committee (she is required to stay neutral until after the Montana primary on June 3rd).
Also behind the growth is the influence of tribal members in more local elections in the West, for example:
What is the difference between this year and the last Presidential election in terms of Native participation? “Indian Country is definitely on the radar screen this year for several reasons. First, we have become more politically sophisticated by electing our own tribal members to state and local offices – suddenly they see us playing and winning in their politics where we have long been ignored. Second, the focus on the New West, the battleground states of NM and AZ offer ripe opportunities for Indian Country to be a real determining factor in who the next President is. But it’s not just the White House that tribal members can influence, it’s the congressional and senate races in NM and AZ as well. This can be, with sufficient resources to support our efforts, the “Year of the INDN” Free said.
Also interesting is that apparently McCain has carried a lot of water for the Native American community (which would make sense being from Arizona) and the Democratic nominee will need to work to be competitive against McCain for the general election:
What is the most unusual or funny way you have been wooed by the two campaigns? “I’m still waiting on one or both of the candidates to ask me to organize a national event with tribal leaders to address our concerns, something like a Prez on the Rez perhaps. Seriously, I am excited about both of my party’s candidates; however the Democratic Nominee, whoever he or she is, certainly cannot take the Indian Vote for granted. Republicans have made great inroads into Indian Country and Senator McCain has carried a lot of water for Indian Country for decades in the Senate. For the Democratic nominee to think that tribal members will automatically vote for him or her would be a grave misstep,” Free said.