Minnesota Gubernatorial Election Shattered 'Glass Ceiling'

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor elect Peggy Flanagan reacts as she steps to the podium during the election night event held by the Democratic Party Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Photo: AP Photo/Hannah Foslien
Minnesota Lieutenant Governor elect Peggy Flanagan reacts as she steps to the podium during the election night event held by the Democratic Party Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn.

November 08, 2018 02:16 PM

Peggy Flanagan becomes the highest ranking indigenous woman ever elected in Minnesota with her win as lieutenant governor.

When Flanagan celebrated the victory on Tuesday night in St. Paul, she shared the moment with a little girl named Ava that she met during the campaign.

“Ava and all these other young indigenous girls including my daughter can see themselves reflected in leadership," Flanagan said. “There is an opportunity for us to do so much more for folks who feel like they haven't had a voice, I'm honored and humbled beyond belief."


Nearly 250 miles away, at the White Earth Nation, Tara Mason watched the results come in.

Mason is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Flanagan is also member tribe. 

"It means that our opportunities and our potential and any kind of idea there's a glass ceiling is gone," Mason said of what the moment symbolized for her six daughters. "Anything they strive to do is possible - it's achievable now."

Mason, who helped campaign for Flanagan, said many other young members were energized by this election.

"For me one of the pieces is looking at the civic engagement - with the get out the vote and trying to get our members out voting,” Mason said. “I've seen a lot of the younger demographics at the polls.”

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Flanagan and Governor-elect Tim Walz visited other tribes as well in the state during the race.

Federal data shows around 1.4 percent of Minnesota’s population is indigenous.

The DFL candidates Flanagan and Walz made a plan to create policies for native communities that focus on honoring tribal sovereignty, increasing education opportunities and developing plans to combat the opioid crisis during their administration.

Races Across the Country

It was another night of firsts as voters in Kansas and New Mexico elected the first two Native American women - Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland - to the U.S. Congress.

“More than 100 candidates across the boards and the first time since I’ve been keeping track that more women than men ran,” said Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today.

Trahant has been keeping tabs of political candidates over the last three elections across the nation.

“The millennial, which is the largest cohort of voters, actually showed their strength, and showed up at the polls, in so many places, including Indian country," said Trahant.

Two high-profile candidates - Democrat Paulette Jordan of Idaho and Republican Adria Tupola - both lost their bids to become the country’s first indigenous female governor.

"Even though they came up short," Trahant said, "they changed the conversation."

*Editor's Note: An earlier version of the story identified Tara Mason as the secretary and treasurer of the White Earth Nation. Mason is the former secretary and treasurer. The story has been edited to amend this.

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Eric Chaloux

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