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Conor O’Callaghan has vision, determination to help tribes of CD1

The Arizona Capitol Times

March 15, 2024

Miguel Medrano is Conor O’Callaghan for Congress Co-Chair, an elected member of the Penjamo Yaqui Pueblo Board of Directors, located in Congressional District 1, former Obama 2012 state director; and former executive director of the Maricopa County Democratic Party. 

I am the former Executive Director of the Maricopa County Democratic Party. I am a military veteran and a proud member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. Native issues are deeply important and personal to me. We have seen it countless times. In election after election, the radio ads, TV blitzes, and flyers go out to tribal communities in an eleventh-hour mad dash because some consultant woke up in the middle of the night and remembered that tribal communities vote too.  

Congressional District 1 has not been immune to those same oversights despite having the Yavapai Nation and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community within its boundaries. In this election, the native vote will not be taken for granted by Conor O’Callaghan who is running in CD1 to replace David Schweikert. 

When I first met Conor, I asked what he would do to help tribal constituents. I initially expected some jargon-laced answers. But Conor surprised me. As a nearly lifelong district resident, Conor was incredibly passionate about the issues impacting native Americans in CD1. Perhaps more importantly, it was evident to me that he appreciated native American heritage in Arizona and recognized the shortcomings of the federal government. 

Conor is the only candidate in this race endorsed by two Central Arizona Water Conservation District board members. That’s because of his emphasis on water policy. And nowhere is water more badly needed than in Arizona’s tribal communities. Seven federally recognized tribes in Arizona have filed but not settled any of their claims for water rights. The settlement process can take decades to make its way through the courts and Congress. Meanwhile, the climate crisis worsens.  

Over 100 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tribes have a right to water (thanks!). But to get that water, they must go to court or negotiate with the state, the government, and any other competing water users. Tribal Nations are at the mercy of allocation based on the state’s negotiation process. Arizona has repeatedly used the negotiation process to strongarm tribes to accept concessions unrelated to water: case and point, making the state’s approval or renewal of casino licenses contingent on water agreements. In these negotiations, tribal governments must agree to a state policy that unfairly hampers their ability to expand their nations. If negotiations fail, the alternative is navigating the court system, where tribal communities have been locked in legal purgatory with some of the longest-running cases in the United States. 

While the Central Arizona Project (CAP) is the largest single supplier of Colorado River water to tribal water users in the Colorado River system – more needs to be done. Conor wants reforms and federal support when it comes to water security and negotiation mechanisms for tribal communities. We must streamline the provision that requires state and federal agencies to approve already federally negotiated and Congressionally authorized water deals. These reviews must at a minimum be much faster or Congressional authority should intercede.


Time is of the essence.  Conor believes that the federal government must invest in more water pipelines to help tribal communities and that additional investments are needed to help tribes improve their federally maintained irrigation system. Conor knows there needs to be more federal oversight over negotiations between tribes and the states they neighbor – no water agreements should be contingent on unrelated items and reservation expansion should not be infringed. Additionally, he suggests a review of these court processes. In the same way, citizens are guaranteed the right of due process, so too plaintiffs should be involved in negotiations of resources as vital as water. These court cases should not be allowed to drag on. There must be expedience.  

I believe in Conor’s vision and admire his determination to help the tribes of CD1. I’m proud of my heritage and I want to support candidates who are focused on protecting it.  

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