OKLAHOMA CITY – John Bennett announced last month he will place his bid to run for Congress in the U.S House of Representatives. The House seat vacancy opened after Mark Wayne Mullin announced his candidacy for the U.S Senate. Unlike the other four Oklahoma congressional district races, Bennett will not be facing an incumbent candidate.
Bennett is a former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and the former chair of the Oklahoma GOP. He served eight years as a state representative for District 2 from 2010-2018.
Bennett’s candidacy comes as a shock to Oklahoma tribal leaders due to his outspoken anti-tribal views on the McGirt Decision. He has stated that not only does he believe the McGirt decision should be overturned, but specifically the Muscogee (Creek) Nation should be stripped of jurisdiction in Indian Country.
“Congress needs to go back, and they need to de-establish the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation. I say once they do that, then they can carry on as they have, you know, all of these years,” Bennett told the Washington Examiner.
Tribal leaders from the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, including Principal Chief David Hill, released a statement in response to Bennett’s announcement:
“The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes is disappointed to hear that candidate John Bennett seeking to represent Oklahoma in Congress is echoing shameful, anti-tribal arguments. Oklahoma is strongest when our tribes are at the table. Candidates who seek to restrict our rights and disestablish our reservations, after the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed twice that they have always existed, do not deserve to represent our state. Mr. Bennett and those who seek to undermine tribal sovereignty also undermine our values partners, our friends and neighbors and our efforts to improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans.”
The statement also said the tribes are proud of the progress they have made expanding their criminal justice systems in the two years since the McGirt ruling. It goes on to say that the Inter-Tribal Council is disappointed by Bennett’s anti-tribal views and Governor Stitt’s legal efforts to overturn the historic Supreme Court decision.
The McGirt decision declared that the lands reserved for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation still constituted Indian Country. Furthermore, Oklahoma State Courts do not have jurisdiction in prosecuting Natives for crimes committed in Indian Country.
Despite Bennett’s run for Congress, Inter-Tribal Council members are still hopeful they can work together with state leaders in prosecuting criminal cases in the wake of the McGirt decision.
Bennett is expected to appear in the Republican Primary on June 28.