A couple of first-time candidates running for the state legislature this Fall could become the first Black lawmakers North Dakota has ever seen.
KX News researched and asked around all day to find out for sure whether or not the state has ever had a Black legislator. The Legislative Council says the state doesn’t keep race data about state lawmakers.
According to Wikipedia, North and South Dakota are the only two states that have not had a Black state lawmaker to date.
We couldn’t find a data source to back this up, but taking a look around the House and Senate from the 2019 session, you’ll notice there are very few people of color and few women, as well.
“If you look at the House of North Dakota, the percentage is unacceptable,” shared District 16 House candidate Hamida Dakane.
“This is what I’m running for,” added District 14 Senate candidate Jenna Vanhorne.
The two Democratic candidates say they hope to change that.
“Representation matters. It matters a lot, especially to the kids here that are growing up. They want to know that they can do anything and be anything, and I really want to instill that message in them,” Vanhorne explained.
Vanhorne is a dairy farmer, who grew up on a dairy farm. She’s running for the open Senate seat in her hometown of Steele.
As for Dakane, “I consider myself North Dakotan, but I’m from Kenya originally. And I moved here 8 years ago. I moved here in 2012 as an out-of-state student. I came to NDSU. Go Bison!”
Dakane says right now, our state representatives are not representatives of the people. She says with diversity, comes representation.
When we asked Vanhorne why it took until now for us to have a couple of Black women running for the legislature, she responded, “I think the protests have woken a flame in all of us that we left dormant for way too long.”
She says the Black population in North Dakota is growing recently, and growing more empowered too.
Dakane shared, “Not only being a woman of color, I am also Muslim. North Dakota had the first mosque in North America. What happened to those people who brought Islam and the first mosque in North Dakota? Why are they not anywhere in government? So that is a question that needs to be answered. But then, I don’t have an answer for it… That’s why I’m running.”
Vanhorne says she’s confident in her campaign, that she’s centering around rural producers and rural healthcare.
Dakane says her focus will be on education and the workforce.
She says her grandmother used to tell her, “If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on it, and people at it are talking about you,” and that was a big inspiration behind her campaign.