Former BYU football player and University of Utah law school graduate Larry EchoHawk hopes next
week to be the first native American elected to statewide office in U.S. history.EchoHawk is running as a Democrat for Idaho's attorney general, holds leads in the polls and hopes for a victory "not as an Indian, but as a good prosecutor and manager." To the best of his knowledge, no native American has ever been elected to a statewide office, not even to the U.S. Senate.
"I am a role model, I suppose. I like that position. I speak as often as possible to native Americans, telling them they can succeed through education," says the former BYU football player. EchoHawk was the starting defensive safety when he graduated from Brigham Young University in 1969.
EchoHawk then went to the U. law school. After graduating, he passed the Utah State Bar and attended MBA school at Stanford University before started his own practice in Salt Lake City. His law practice grew from 1975 to 1980 to include seven attorneys. He then moved to Idaho to become general legal counsel for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
In 1986 he was appointed Bannock County prosecuting attorney and was elected to that post in 1988. He was a member of the Idaho House of Representatives from 1982 to 1986.
EchoHawk is half Pawnee Indian, a tribe that lived in Nebraska until it was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma by the U.S. government. He was born in Cody, Wyo., and grew up in Farmington, N.M., where LaVell Edwards, then BYU's defensive coach, recruited him to play football in 1966.
EchoHawk was in Salt Lake City last week to attend political fund-raisers. "I have many good friends in Utah. I lived here 12 years, and it's great to see so many friends again," he said in an interview.
EchoHawk - the English translation of his great-grandfather's name - says unfortunately his race has been brought up by political opponents. An Idaho newspaper, in endorsing Republican attorney general candidate Pat Kole, raises the question of EchoHawk's race, asking if he can be impartial in representing Idaho against Indian interests - interests he represented when he was the tribal attorney.
EchoHawk says that's unfair. "As county prosecutor, I took stands in favor of the county, regardless of who was on the other side. And I'd do the same thing as attorney general. I've shown no favoritism or bias in my work on the grounds of race." EchoHawk says that, like any other attorney, he represents his client - and his client will be the state.
"Indian votes didn't elect me to my House seats. Indian votes didn't elect me to my county attorney post. Judge me on my experience and ability as a lawyer, not on my race," he says.