Larry EchoHawk, a Pawnee Indian, lawyer and LDS Church member has drawn upon religious and cultural ties in his race to become the nation's first American Indian governor.
Democrat EchoHawk is leading in the Idaho governor's race, according to polls. An examination of his contributors' list shows a number of contributions from Republican, Utah-based members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, American Indians and Idaho law firms.EchoHawk comes to Salt Lake City again for a Saturday evening fund-raising event, this one sponsored by leading Democrat/busi-nessman Ian Cumming. EchoHawk will also attend a fund-raising breakfast Saturday morning in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, raising some eyebrows, reports the Associated Press, because the LDS Church-owned building, while open and available to the public, has not been the site of a political fund-raiser before. The LDS Church does not endorse political candidates and is not endorsing EchoHawk. While in town this weekend, EchoHawk will also attend the LDS Church's general conference.
EchoHawk is a convert to the LDS Church, a graduate of Brig-ham Young University and the University of Utah Law School. He once practiced law in Salt Lake City.
He moved from Salt Lake City to Idaho in 1977 to be tribal counsel for the Shoshone-Bannock tribes at Fort Hall. He served part time in the Idaho Legislature before being elected Idaho attorney general four years ago.
Now he's the leading contender to replace Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus, who is retiring. If EcohHawk wins in November, he will be the first Indian governor.
EchoHawk has raised $14,150 from Utahns, many of them recognized Republicans and LDS Church members. He's raised $11,207 from Indian tribes and individuals whose last names appear to be of American Indian ancestry. EchoHawk has also raised thousands of dollars from the Idaho legal community, a natural source of funds for a sitting attorney general.
While EchoHawk has tapped LDS and Indian financial sources, those contributions make up only a small part of his overall fund raising, records show.
Before Saturday's fund-raisers, Utahns giving to EchoHawk (including some Democrats and contributors who are not members of the LDS Church, amount to only 2.8 percent of the $477,367 EchoHawk has raised as of June 3, the last Idaho gubernatorial reporting period. Indian contributions account for about 2.5 percent of his overall fund raising.
Still, it is a bit odd for well-known Utah Republicans to be giving to an out-of-state Democratic candidate. Geneva Steel boss Joe Cannon gave the largest lump - $5,000.
Cannon, a well-known Republican, lost the 1992 GOP Utah senatorial primary. Cannon couldn't be reached for comment but recently told the Associated Press that there was an LDS connection in giving to EchoHawk. If an LDS Church member and Indian could be elected governor of a Western state, then Cannon said he'd support him, regardless of partisan politics.
Other well-known people and businesses with Utah ties giving to EchoHawk include: former BYU golfer Johnny Miller, $1,000; former Deseret News publisher Wendell Ashton, $100 (Ashton hosts EchoHawk's Saturday morning fund-raising breakfast); former U.S. Secretary of Education Ted Bell, $100; food store owner Dan S. Gardiner, $200; NuSkin International, $500; Little America executive Ken Knight, $1,000; former KSL-TV executive Arch Madsen, $100; food store executive Paul Ream, $1,000; former Zion's Bank executive Roy Simmons, $500; and the law firm of Kirton, McConkie and Poelman, which handles much of the LDS Church's legal work, $200.
A number of Western Indian tribes have also contributed. They include: the Yakima Nation, $1,000; the Washoe Tribe of Nevada, $1,000; Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, $250; Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, $1,000; and the Colorado Indian Tribe, $250.
EchoHawk doesn't apologize for tapping friends and acquaintances.
"I have many friends in Utah," EchoHawk said in a Deseret News interview. "I played football for BYU. (Football coach LaVell Edwards held a fund-raiser for EchoHawk in Idaho). I practiced law in Salt Lake City."
EchoHawk was an LDS bishop while in Salt Lake City and has served on three stake high councils since he's been in Idaho.
"The EchoHawk family is well-known in Indian law circles," he added.
While EchoHawk did solicit money from his Utah connections - attorneys, Democrats, Republicans, LDS Church members and nonmembers alike - he says he hasn't solicited from Indians. Indians learn he's running and contribute on their own, he said.
Even though EchoHawk has tapped religious and cultural roots, those groups still haven't given like one Idaho special interest group. The Idaho teachers association has given EchoHawk $25,000, more than the other groups combined.
While EchoHawk's religious and cultural ties may raise some money - in white, Protestant, Republican Idaho where LDS Church members and Indians are minorities - they may not translate into votes. While recently campaigning at the Idaho State Fair, EchoHawk shook hands with anyone who would talk with him.
"If Larry EchoHawk is elected, it won't be because he's Indian. It will be in spite of it," undecided voter Donald Clark said after chatting with EchoHawk.
EchoHawk, 46, has long had a foot in both worlds. The son of a full-blooded Pawnee father and white mother, he grew up in Farmington, N.M. His parents lived modestly and stressed the value of a good education. All six of their children received college degrees.
"I would like to be a positive role model for Native Americans, because when I was growing up, there were very few positive role models we could look to," EchoHawk said.