Diné candidate: Time is right for Native in Congress

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With Arizona redrawing its congressional districts, Wenona Benally Baldenegro figures it's a good time to be throwing her hat in the ring. The 34-year-old Harvard law grad, originally from Kayenta, thinks she stands a pretty good chance of winning the Democratic nomination and defeating Republican incumbent Paul Gosar - especially if the Navajo Nation and 10 other Arizona tribes can convince the state of Arizona to redraw District 1 their way.

If she is elected, it will be the first time Arizona has elected a Native American to Congress, and she will be the first Native woman to represent any state. She thinks she stands a chance. "If you look at the proposed district," Baldenegro said in a phone interview between appointments Monday, "about 20 percent of the voters are Native American and another 20 percent are Hispanic."

Thus, it will not hurt Baldenegro that she married a Mexican-American (Salomon F. Baldenegro) and has a Spanish last name - nor that she has expressed vehement opposition to Arizona's ethnic studies bill and SB1070, which requires police to question individuals they suspect might be illegal immigrants (like her grandmother, who was rounded up in an Immigration Service raid on Northern Arizona University's food service).

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