Democrats in Montana’s key stateside races received over 70 percent of the Indian vote in the 2012 election, exceeding the 48-49 percent of the statewide vote they received by a wide margin.
The support likely played a major role in the senate, gubernatorial, and state superintendent races — and, conversely, in the Republicans’ failure to make any gains in statewide seats.
New figures from Montana Native Voice [PDF] show that Jon Tester won by approximately 16,000 votes–8,000 of which came from Indian country. Steve Bullock won by about 6,000 votes and received 8,000 from Indian voters. Denise Juneau won by over 2,000 more votes than her opponent and received 8,000 from Indians. Juneau is Montana’s first Indian woman to be elected to statewide office.
The numbers also show record high voter turnout in targeted democratic precincts in Indian country. Indian voter turnout in targeted districts was 61% in 2012 compared to 60% in 2008 and 52% in 2006. In contract, CNN is reporting that estimates of Montana’s 2012 statewide voter turnout was lower in 2012 lower than it was in 2008.
Strong support from Indian country could serve as a catalyst to build on Native representation and voices in key leadership roles at the state and federal level. But while some seek to build on Governor Schweitzer’s legacy of reaching out to Indian people to make sure they are acknowledged, respected, and included–conservatives are already calling tribal sovereignty “ridiculous.”
Just yesterday, a Kalispell TEA Party Republican–and featured speaker at Republican Party events–penned an editorial that said Indian sovereignty is an “anachronism ” that has “long since served its purpose.”
On the right-wing blog PolyMontana, Mark Agather wrote that he knows full well:
“many will find this viewpoint way outside of their preferred politically correct viewpoint. But, times change. So should our policies with the Indian tribes. New approaches to old ways are hard for many to fathom much less accept. However, when the emotional shrieks and inevitable name calling has diminished, such a consideration should be worthy of a rational discussion.”
Watch for something along these lines to come up in the next legislative session.