Juneau - the unofficial winner in the race for Montana’s top K-12
educator - was on her way to making history Tuesday night as the
first Native woman elected to a statewide office, and arguably the
first Native woman in the nation to do so.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Turnage is an enrolled member of
the CKST and was the first Native American elected to statewide
office in Montana.
should be proud we’re on the brink of her being the first Native
woman to hold a statewide office in the nation,” said Olivia Riutta,
a Democratic campaign field organizer. “I’m thankful we’re moving
in this direction. It’s telling. It gives me hope. This is the United
States we’re taught about in school. It’s the great American dream.”
of press time, early voting results placed Juneau with 53 percent
of the total votes cast in a three-way race for the state’s superintendent
of public instruction; Republican Elaine Herman had 41 percent of
the vote; Libertarian Donald Eisenmenger, 5 percent.
winner of the race will replace Linda McCulloch, who was prevented
from seeking re-election based on term limits.
excited and hope the numbers hold,” said Juneau, director of the
state’s Indian education office. “If the trend keeps going - with
Obama winning Montana - it really looks good for all the Democrats
in the state right now.”
an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, watched
election returns with supporters and family Tuesday night at the
Great Northern Hotel in Helena. A count of early absentee votes
showed her with a solid lead in some of the state’s most populated
counties, including Big Horn, Lewis and Clark and Missoula.
campaign to lead the Office of Public Instruction marks her first
political race, although she is no stranger to political strategizing.
Her mother, state Sen. Carol Juneau, D-Browning, has served in both
the state House and Senate for nearly a decade.
will make history here in Montana,” said Carol Juneau. “It’s a wonderful
night. A mother couldn’t be more proud. We’ll keep our fingers crossed
and wait until the final vote. What’s really amazing is the amount
of people who stepped forward to help Denise. The outpouring of
support from the people of Montana has been wonderful.”
has been actively campaigning around the state since announcing
who helped organize Juneau’s campaign in Missoula, credited the
educator with working hard and connecting to grass-roots voters.
“Denise is an exceptional candidate. She’s running for a statewide
race at a time when voters are looking for change. She’s in line
with what voters are feeling in the state and in the country.”