Jamie Edwards of the Band's Government Affairs Department has been following local, state, federal, and tribal politics for decades, so his assessment of this year's primary election should be taken seriously.
"The August 14 primary is the most important election the Mille Lacs Band has seen in many years," said Jamie.
He cites several crucial races that will affect the Mille Lacs Band and its members for years to come:
Minnesota Governor: Mark Dayton has been relatively friendly (but inconsistently so) to Band interests and tribal communities in general. His retirement opens the door to candidates who may be ignorant, unsympathetic, or even hostile to the Band and other tribes.
The Mille Lacs Band has endorsed Democrat Tim Walz and his running mate Peggy Flanagan, a White Earth Band member who would be the highest-ranking Native woman in Minnesota government history.
Attorney General Lori Swanson and her running mate Rick Nolan are running against Tim and Peggy. Swanson, like her political mentor Mike Hatch, who preceded her as Attorney General, believes the 1855 Mille Lacs Reservation was disestablished — a position directly contradicted by the U.S. gov- ernment's Department of the Interior.
On the Republican side, former governor Tim Pawlenty is running against Jeff Johnson. Neither is a friend to tribes. During Pawlenty's eight years in office, he made numerous attempts to expand gambling in ways that were contrary to tribal interests.
Mille Lacs County Attorney: For the first time ever, a Native American is running for the position. Richard Osburn is a member of the Cherokee Nation who has worked for the Mille Lacs Band as a deputy solicitor general and district court judge.
In 2014, in another three-way primary for Mille Lacs County Attorney, the winner had just over 1,000 votes. There are 1,200 registered voters in District I and District IIa, so Band members could easily swing the election with a strong turnout.
Current County Attorney Joe Walsh supported the Mille Lacs County Board's decision to rescind its law enforce- ment agreement with the Band. He has continued to oppose a new agreement while also attempting to prevent other counties and tribal agencies from working with Mille Lacs Tribal Police.
Former County Attorney Jan Jude was also an opponent of tribal interests. She repeatedly argued that the 1855 Mille Lacs Reservation had been disestablished, and she opposed trust applications as well as the Band's applica- tion for federal law enforcement help under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA).
The valuable assistance from the BIA drug enforcement division under TLOA has taken many drug dealers off the streets and deterred countless others from endangering Band members' lives.
Minnesota Attorney General: The Band has endorsed Keith Ellison for Minnesota Attorney General (see sidebar). Ellison decided to leave his seat as 5th District U.S. Representative to run for Attorney General. The other Democrats in the race are Tom Foley, Debra Hillstrom, Mike Rothman, and Matt Pelikan, who was endorsed by the state DFL. On the Republican side, the candidates are Sharon Anderson, Robert Lessard, and Doug Wardlow.
Eighth U.S. Congressional District: This one-time Democratic stronghold has grown more conservative in recent years, with Republican Chip Cravaack defeating Jim Oberstar in 2010 and Republican Stewart Mills the Third nearly defeating Democrat Rick Nolan (who beat Cravaack in 2012) in 2014 and 2016. With Nolan retiring, five Democrats, two Republicans, and Independence Party candidate Ray Skip Sandman are hoping to replace him. The Democrats in the race are Kirsten Kennedy, Michelle Lee, Jason Metsa, Joe Radinovich, and Soren Sorensen. The Republicans are Pete Stauber and Harry Welty.
Fifth U.S. Congressional District: Keith Ellison's decision to run for Attorney General threw open the race for his seat representing Minneapolis in the U.S. House of Representatives. Six Democrats and three Republicans are seeking to represent their parties in the general election November 6. The Mille Lacs Band has endorsed Patricia Torres-Ray in this race.
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