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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Juneau will be first Native woman to win statewide office
by JODI RAVE of the Missoulian

Denise 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.

Former 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.

“Montanans 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.”

As 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.

The winner of the race will replace Linda McCulloch, who was prevented from seeking re-election based on term limits.

“We’re 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.”

Juneau, 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.

Juneau’s 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.

“She 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.”

Juneau has been actively campaigning around the state since announcing her candidacy.

Riutta, 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.”

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