By Ryan Heinsius, Arizona Public Radio
Arizona’s Seventh Legislative District is gearing up for a new direction. The outcome of the election was all but certain from the beginning. That’s because Democratic state senate candidate Jamescita Peshlakai is running for the seat without any opposition from a major party. The district covers much of the northern and eastern parts of the state that includes several tribal nations.
Peshlakai has deep roots in northern Arizona. Her family is originally from the area now designated as Wupatki National Monument, north of Flagstaff. Her great-grandfathers collaborated with President Theodore Roosevelt in annexing land that became the western portion of the Navajo Nation.
“I was born and raised in the area,” Peshlakai said. “I have a name that is synonymous with culture, tradition and the struggle of the Native American in the region. I’ve always dedicated my life to public service.” She is a U-S Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War who served with the 403rd combat hospital. She helped overhaul the Navajo Veterans Administration earlier this year and was recently appointed the agency’s interim executive director. Peshlakai is also the former state representative of LD7.
If elected to the state senate for the district, Peshlakai said her priority will be to protect the state’s environment as well as tribal watersheds. “We consider this our home, not just physically but spiritually and emotionally as well,” she said. “There’s a greater duty to the district and to ourselves and to all that is pretty much permanent here: the earth, the water, the natural resources.” Tribal sovereignty, job creation, and the removing dark money from statewide campaigns are also of vital importance, she said.
LD7 includes eight tribal nations like the Havasupai, Hopi and Navajo, and spans seven Arizona counties. The district’s senate seat will be vacated by Republican Carlyle Begay who didn’t seek reelection this year. The 53rd Arizona State Legislature will convene in January.
Arizona’s First Congressional district has the largest number of Native American voters of any district in the country. With less than a month before the U-S general election, the two candidates vying for the office are appealing to voters on the Navajo Nation and other tribes.