Here’s a rundown of some of the key races won last night thanks to what ICTMN calls a crucial Native voter turnout. Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, was among the candidates who was aided, Rob Capriccioso Writes.
In the days leading up to the November 6 election, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told Indian Country Today Media Network that he was relying on the Native American vote to help him defeat challenger GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Just as in 2006, Tester pulled out a close victory, where the margin of votes from reservations in his state likely put him over the edge, according to Native political observers.
American Indian organizers, including Tom Rodgers, a Blackfeet citizen and tribal lobbyist with Carlyle Consulting, worked hard to secure Indian votes, canvassing the state and expressing support for Tester’s efforts on behalf of Indians. Several tribal citizens also filed suit in Montana to have satellite-voting offices opened on reservations—a battle that goes on now that the election has concluded.
“Every vote mattered,” Tester spokeswoman Andrea Telling said when asked whether the Native vote put him over the top.
Heidi Heitkamp,D-ND, defeated Republican Rick Berg in a very close North Dakota Senate race, Capriccioso wrote.
Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer, believes Native efforts and votes for Heitkamp tipped the scales in her favor. Tex Hall, chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes, hosted a get-out-the-vote rally on her behalf on his reservation the Saturday before the election, and also campaigned for her.
“Sometimes the good candidates really win,” Stearns said. “Even a Democrat in a Republican state.”
Joe Valandra, an economic consultant to tribes, said both Tester and Heitkamp owe it to Indians to work hard for positive tribal agendas in Washington. “I think they should be expected to give these issues the full attention and energy of their offices,” he said. “[Their] successes in Montana and North Dakota are directly tied to Indian votes.”