Diné woman will be Kansas’ youngest sitting legislator

All four Native candidates running for office in Kansas won their primary elections Tuesday, including one who is the presumptive winner of a state House seat, and will become Kansas' youngest sitting legislator, after no one filed to run against her in November.

Twenty-six-year-old first-time candidate Christina Haswood, Diné, won her Democratic primary with 70 percent of the vote.

"It's still surreal," Haswood said Tuesday night. "I just want to thank my voters for supporting me in this important election."

On Wednesday morning, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez rang praise for Haswood.

"Change is happening with this election, and Christina Haswood is part of that change," Nez said. "I am very proud of her and all that she has accomplished to this point. She is truly an inspiration to our people, especially our young people."

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, of Kansas, ran unopposed in her bid for a second term in Congress, and will advance to the general election.

She will face Amanda Adkins, former chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party, in November. The Republican primary was a race between five candidates.

(National election update: Protest leader ousts longtime member of Congress; Kansas, Arizona, Washington results)

(Related: Sharice Davids: ‘The Native vote cannot be underestimated’)

In Kansas’ 86th district, Stephanie Byers, Chickasaw, won the Democratic nomination for a state House seat. If elected in November, Byers would be the first transgender woman in the state’s Legislature.

Ponka-We Victors, Tohono O’odham and Ponca Tribe, currently serves in the Kansas House as the only Native legislator. She won the primary Tuesday in her bid for a sixth term.

Tuesday’s primary elections included five states that were narrowing the field in statewide and legislative races.

Indian Country Today has been following 21 Native candidates seeking various offices Aug. 4 in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan and Washington.

As of midday Thursday, a handful of races had not been called.

Also holding a primary Tuesday was Missouri, though no Native candidates appeared to be seeking office in that state.

Haswood is the presumed winner of a Kansas state House seat given that no Republican filed for candidacy in the race.

She was endorsed by Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Emily’s list, the nations’ largest political action committee for women in politics.

Kansas’ 10th district, where Haswood won office, includes Haskell Indian Nations University. She holds degrees from Haskell, Arizona State University and the University of Kansas.

Haswood noted Davids inspired her to run.

“I always thought that us Natives weren’t accepted in politics here in Kansas, but then Congresswoman Davids did it,” Haswood said laughing. “And I was like, ‘OK, I can do it too.’”

Byers is a recently retired schoolteacher who has taught in Oklahoma, Arizona and Kansas.

“Having someone with a background of 32 years in the classroom makes a huge difference,” Byers said. “I realize exactly how funding happens when it goes through the classroom door, into the student and how it affects that student and their family.”

In 2018, Byers was named National Educator of the Year by GLSEN, an education organization dedicated to supporting students’ sexual orientation, gender identity and LGBTQ inclusion.

She is expected to face off against Republican business owner Cyndi Howerton in November. Byers was endorsed by the Victory Fund, a political action committee dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBTQ candidates.

Here are other races including Native candidates across the country. Updated at 4:45 p.m. EST on Aug. 6, 2020:

Arizona has 11 Native candidates:

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