Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
A recent poll released by Gallup indicates Congress is tied for an all time approval rating of 10 percent. A strange irony of American politics is voters will re-elect the vast majority of Congress even though they don't like the job Congress is doing.
Choosing to Stand Up and Vote
American democracy is supposed to work like this: if someone is not doing their job, vote them out the next possible election. For some reason, it does not seem to work like that unless a Member of Congress is convicted of some serious crime.
In Arizona's First Congressional District where there are some 11 American Indian tribes, voters will not have an opportunity to vote in an incumbent because of redistricting this past January. The current incumbent GOP Paul Gosar played it safe by deciding to run in another district that votes more Republican.
However, voters have an opportunity to vote for former Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick who lost to Tea Party leaning Gosar two years ago. The Arizona primary is next Tuesday, August 28.
While she is no longer the incumbent, she still has large bucks backing her. Voters need beware - especially American Indian voters.
Kirkpatrick is not to be trusted by American Indians and they need not vote for her next week.
When she ran for office in 2008 she had the support of the San Carlos Apache tribe's then Chairman Wendsler Nosie, Sr. who hosted a fundraiser for her on the San Carlos Reservation.
After she was elected to Congress, Kirkpatrick introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that was similar to a bill introduced by Arizona's US Senator John McCain, in the US Senate, in support of swabbing 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper for mining purposes.
Therefore, they adamantly opposed the legislation.
While then Chairman Nosie was in Washington on other tribal business, he stopped by Kirkpatrick's Congressional office to voice his Tribe's opposition to the land swap legislation.
According to what was reported in The Hill, the exchange between the tribal chairman and Congresswoman went like this:
“Ann, the reason why I'm here is because you had told me that you would definitely hear both sides of the story,”
“Chairman, tell me, how is your religion going to put food on the table?,”
“Tell me how your religion is going to help the children getting abused by their parents. How is your religion going to turn the bed sheets of your elders?”
Chairman Nosie then told her,
“Ann, don't even go there.”
Reportedly they have not spoken since. Her legislation, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange, ultimately passed the US House and is now in the US Senate.
One wonders if Kirkpatrick would have ever insulted a Catholic priest by asking if Christianity will put food on the table. Or would Christianity stop child abuse? Or would Christianity turn bed sheets of elders?
Of course, bigotry is another topic.
The point is Kirkpatrick does not deserve votes of the Apache, the Navajo, the Hopi and other tribes based in Congressional District One.
With all of the discontent voters have with Congress and its lack of lack of progress in addressing the most fundamental aspects of American life, the voters in Arizona's Congressional District One have a tremendous opportunity to vote someone new into office.
Next week the other alternative to Kirkpatrick in the Democratic Party is Navajo Wenona Benally Baldenegro. A fresh face who absolutely would not vote in favor of land swaps on top of sacred sites. What an opportunity for American Indians who are voters in this district.
Baldenegro is equipped with a law degree from Harvard Law School. Having grown up on the Navajo Reservation in a single working family home where her mother raised her, she understands the needs of working class people, whether American Indian or not.
She knows she needs more than the Native vote. That is why she has worked in every county in the Congressional district to get elected. But, winning against a well-financed campaign is difficult.
Therefore, she must win her base. American Indians are her base! American Indians in every tribe in the Congressional district should proudly cast their vote for this young educated Navajo woman who will never vote against a sacred site.
Every non-Native in the district can rest assured Baldenegro will vote her conscience for what is right for working class people. That too is her base.
It is time to vote for a Congress that will work for America. Baldenegro offers that ability.
updated 10:50 am edt; posted August 21, 2012 9:10 am edt