Mercedes Krause was making calls and reaching out to people in Nevada to run for office. She is chair of Nevada’s Statewide Native American Caucus and was working to increase the number of Indigenous candidates, which is part of the strategic plan for the caucus. It was at that moment she realized that if she was asking other people to take this leap, she had to do the same.
So, Krause threw her name into the race and is running for Nevada’s second congressional district, where 18 of the 27 tribal nations in the state reside.
“We have a lot of issues going on,” Krause said. “We need protection of sacred sites. Mining companies have a history of coming into the community, polluting areas, contaminating the water for communities and that is not slowing down. So, that is in a nutshell why I put my hat in the ring to run this election.”
Nevada’s primary election is Tuesday. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. Nevada offers same day voter registration, meaning you can register to vote and cast your ballot on the same day.
Krause, Oglala Lakota, is an educator who has been working in Clark County schools for over two decades. She is an active union member, sits on the Nevada State Education Association board, founded the nonprofit Indigenous Educators Empowerment, and is part of the Nevada Minority Affairs Commission.
Her top priorities are a “dignified quality of life for everyone” and education.
Quality of life addresses the everyday needs of families from housing to a liveable wage and Medicare for all.
“One of the things that I really want to see are profit caps,” Krause said. “It is unbelievable when we see how hard things are for our community members. Gas, baby food, the list goes on and on. It’s true that there are some increased costs because of transportation and production. But, if you really look, when you see corporations making record profits during this time when everyday people are suffering, that’s something that I definitely want to address.”
Nevada ranks 40th in the nation for high school completion and ranks 49th for postsecondary participation overall according to the 2020 Nevada Children’s Report Card. Krause knows all too well how much could be improved within the Nevada education system.
“One of the things that’s really tiresome is politicians coming in and making policy decisions without having proper consultation with any educators, without having any educators there at the table,” she said. “This is something I really want to make a change in.”
The school that Krause teaches at today is the same school she attended as a child. She was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. Additionally, Krause’s three daughters were all born and raised in Nevada. She is a graduate of Emerge Nevada and Advance Native Political Leadership. She is working toward her doctoral degree in Education Leadership and Policy.
“One thing different that I do bring to the table, I’m the only female candidate and I have the experience of raising my three daughters on a teacher’s salary,” she said. “I’ve experienced a lot of joy, but a lot of challenges. I think having that perspective definitely can help me relate to what my constituents are going through and be able to use my own experience in sharing their voice in things that are happening in the community.”
Krause is running against six others in the crowded Democratic primary. If she wins there, Krause is likely to be up against Republican incumbent Mark Amodei, who has held his seat since 2011, or businessman Danny Tarkanian. Tarkanian has run six times for congressional office and lost every race.
Nevada congressional district 2 has voted in a Republican congressional candidate every election since 2000. The district is considered solidly Republican.
Krause isn’t the only Indigenous candidate, Shea Backus, Cherokee, is running for Nevada State Assembly District 37. The democratic primary was canceled and she is headed to the general election in November.
Backus is a third generation Nevadan. She graduated from the Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law with an emphasis on Native American legal issues. She is an attorney and practices law with her father. Backus provides pro bono services to abused and neglected children.
She was inspired to run because of her work in law and the many times she had to utilize state statute and the state’s constitution.
Backus was elected to state district 37 and served from 2018-2020. She lost her reelection in 2020 by just 657 votes. There is no incumbent running in the state election.
There are three republican candidates, veteran and entrepreneur Al Hansen, general contractor and small business owner Jacob Deaville, and veteran and financial advisor David Flippo.
State district 37 has nearly 2,000 more active registered democratic voters compared to republican voters. But there are 13,197 nonpartisan voters who will ultimately decide the election. This will surely be a competitive race for Backus.