Jackie Johnson would bring outsized influence to Alaskan Senate seat

Senator Charles Schumer wants badly for Jacqueline “Jackie” Johnson-Pata to seek the United States Senate seat that is up for election in Alaska in 2020, currently held by freshman Republican Dan Sullivan.

Johnson-Pata would bring an outsized level of influence to the Senate chamber – much more than the typical junior Senator from Alaska ever could.

Johnson-Pata has been Indian County’s most influential lobbyist for the last two decades, and the longest serving Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians in its history. She is widely recognized as being among the Nation’s top tier of civil rights leaders, and is a historic figure in Indian Country.

Her network of relationships across Indian County would be enormously powerful, if wielded by a savvy political operator of her caliber – not only in the context of campaign fundraising, but also when serving constituents. If Democrats retake the majority, Schumer plans to appoint Johnson-Pata the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, despite her freshman status in the chamber.

The State of Alaska’s population is 15% Alaska Native, and home to hundreds of Alaska Native Villages and Corporations. An Indian Affairs Chairman – under a Democrat majority – could have a catalytic impact in advancing Indian County’s infrastructure and investment needs. For Alaska Native Villages, that could mean a period of robust economic growth.

Johnson-Pata is widely seen as among the most well-networked lobbyists in Washington, DC, and has been so for nearly two decades. Unlike the prototypical freshman Senator who arrives in Washington ignorant of the legislative process and unknown to the City’s power players, Johnson-Pata comes with established relationships inside and outside that chamber paired with an unparalleled understanding of the legislative process.

No one in Alaska can claim that they would be a more effective first-termer.

“It would be like having Ted Stevens back,” reflects one observer of Alaskan politics. “Overnight.”

Schumer sees the race as an opportunity to cultivate a plethora of new relationships in Indian Country, which has been largely unaligned with party politics, particularly in centrist, largely rural states where Democrats have a difficult time fielding successful campaigns. Economic growth in recent years has allowed many tribes to emerge as influential regional employers and investors, with political influence to exert.

If Schumer is to build a governing caucus in his chamber in 2020, the road to power runs through Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, and Oklahoma.

Johnson-Pata is the key that unlocks extraordinary new relationships for Schumer in all of those places.

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