Vote here sign at Denver Indian Center during the 2008 elections.

Native Voting in Colorado Offers Clout

Carol Berry
10/25/12

Until 2010, Colorado hadn’t had both a Democratic governor and a majority in both houses for 50 years. The current election offers the possibility of a Democratic sweep—Gov. John Hickenlooper is a Democrat, Republicans are down three seats in the Senate, and Democrats lack only one seat to retake the House and gain control of the General Assembly.

Key Race: 3rd Congressional District – U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R) v. State Rep. Sal Pace (D)

Colorado’s 40,000 Indian voters could be important in a few contests, including southwestern Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, home of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes. They seem to agree on some issues particularly important to Indians—both support the Native American Tuition Waiver at [Fort Lewis College] and other American Indian-serving institutions. Both support the provisions in Obamacare that increase health services for Indians nationwide.

“The next Congress will address many issues that are important to Native Americans. That’s why I believe that the 3rd Congressional District needs a representative who will protect the Native American Tuition Waiver at [FLC] and other American Indian-serving institutions. I support the bipartisan version of VAWA that has passed in the Senate [that would include tribal women],” Pace said in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network.

Tipton offered comments by telephone, noting that he has been concerned about tuition for all Native students at FLC, not just those from Colorado, because “it’s a federal requirement, so there are students from around the country.” It’s appropriate that the federal government pays for out-of-state Native students, he said, and the proposed legislation for federal tuition reimbursement is now “due for hearing on the Senate side.”

In regards to the Affordable Care Act which includes a permanent authorization for the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), Pace said, “Although I have concerns with the law’s individual mandate, I agree with many parts of the [ACA]. In addition to supporting other parts of the [ACA] I also support its provisions that update and make permanent the [IHCIA], which provides critical health services to 1.9 million Native Americans.”

Tipton said he has favored free-trade agreements—in part because of his vantage point as a member of the national Native American Caucus—and cites China and Russia as possible consumers for tribally developed beef and other goods. He also said he favors the IHCIA’s being made permanent under the ACA.

Key Race: 6th Congressional District – U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R) v. State Rep. Mike Miklosi (D)

Polls had this contest a dead-heat two weeks before the election. Mikloski says he would work with urban Indians to ensure access to “quality education, health care, and economic opportunity.” He supports many parts of the ACA and is “concerned about the epidemic of diabetes in our communities.”

Incumbents are largely favored in other Congressional races, including Representatives Diana DeGette, Democrat, 1st District, who has been vigilant in her support for research into the causes, prevention and cure for diabetes. As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Diabetes Caucus she is a strong advocate for the expansion of diabetes care and research.

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