Monday, January 07, 2008

U.S. tribes back Titla’s run for Congress

Paul Giblin, East Valley Tribune

American Indian tribes from across the state and country are pumping money into Mary Kim Titla’s congressional campaign.

The former Phoenix TV news reporter is running as a Democrat in the crowded race in Arizona’s vast 1st Congressional District. The mostly rural district has the largest Indian population of any congressional district in the country at 22 percent.

Titla is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in southeastern Arizona.

Overall contributions to her campaign are approaching $100,000, and American Indian tribes have contributed more than half of the total, she said Wednesday.

“There is a real excitement about my ethnicity, of course, being Native American. There’s no doubt about that,” she said. “People in general are excited about helping me become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.”

The campaign’s latest financial figures will be reflected in its final 2007 campaign finance report, which is due to the Federal Election Commission by Jan. 15.

Third-quarter 2007 financial reports indicated Titla’s fundraising was fourth among candidates hoping to succeed Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican incumbent under federal investigation into possible public corruption and not seeking re-election.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick led the field with $217,000 in contributions by Sept. 30. Republican Sydney Hay had $108,000, Democrat Howard Shanker $66,000 and Titla $42,000.

To date, 25 tribes have contributed to Titla’s campaign, she said. The list includes the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, among others.

“There are tribes all over the country who are giving,” she said. Several tribes have donated $4,600, the maximum amount allowed by law from a single source.

Titla’s campaign chest establishes her as a serious candidate, said Mike O’Neil, president of O’Neil Associates, a public opinion research firm based in Tempe. Her ability to draw contributions from a national base is also telling, he said.

“Number 1, it says that she has presented a credible case to those tribes; and Number 2, the power of affinity,” O’Neil said.

“That’s not enough. You have to be credible. If she’s raised that amount of money at this point, I’d say that she’s convinced them that she’s a credible candidate,” he said.

In October, Titla addressed about 1,000 tribal leaders at a convention of the National Congress of American Indians, a lobbying organization. During her 20-minute speech in Denver, she pledged to address the needs of children, families, seniors and veterans. She also told the delegates she will ensure tribal sovereignty.

Those themes carry across state lines, she said.

“What’s important to remember is that once you’re elected to Congress, there are no boundaries, and people understand that. So there is a real genuine interest all over the country in my candidacy,” Titla said.

She has also received the endorsements of several Arizona tribes.

“I believe that the tribes in the district and outside of the district want to make sure that there is going to be someone in Congress who can be a voice for the tribes and can relate to what they’re going through. And I’m that candidate,” she said.

Titla said that her 20 years as a TV reporter in Tucson and the Valley also have helped establish her reputation among non-Native Americans.

“People appreciate where I’ve come from, how hard I’ve worked to get to where I’m at, and that I’m concerned and that I’m passionate about the same issues that they’re concerned about,” she said.