Democrat Gabriella Cázares-Kelly is the first elected Native American person to hold office for Pima County, Arizona.

A member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Cázares-Kelly declared her win for Pima County Recorder via a Facebook Live video.

“This isn’t just my win. This is a win for the Tohono O’odham people, for the Pascua Yaqui people, for any of you who are tribally affiliated or affiliated with a tribe, to People of Colour — this is a win for all of us,” she said.

The race for Pima County was contested for the first time in decades after Democrat F. Ann Rodriguez announced her retirement late 2019. Rodriguez held the role for 30 years.

Pima County is Arizona’s second most populated county with a population of 1 million.

Cázares-Kelly won the seat against Republican Benny White, winning approximately 59 per cent of the vote.

Her campaign focused on making the vote accessible for Indigenous communities.

“We had one of the most exciting campaigns in Southern Arizona,” Cázares-Kelly told

“We had a tremendous amount of energy. And it wasn’t just about getting me elected. We were doing the work of informing constituents about their voting rights.”

The Democrat was raised in the rural community of Pisin’ Mo’o, Arizona with a population of just 300 people.

In her teenage years, Cázares-Kelly relocated to Tucson. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education from the University of Arizona and a Masters of Educational Leadership for Community College and Higher Education from Northern Arizona University.

With 15 years’ experience in Native American institutions, Cázares-Kelly was a member of the Arizona Board of Regents Academic Advising Articulation Task Force for almost a decade. She is currently an Advisory Board member for the Education Policy Centre at the University of Arizona.

She is the co-founder of Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots community organisation aimed at providing education and civil engagement opportunities to the Tohono Oʼodham Nation.

“I am fortunate and have put in the work in the community, physically registering voters and being out in these rural locations, in these tribal locations, providing information,” she said.

“I’m so looking forward to all the conversations that are going to be coming from me taking this office.”

Cázares-Kelly will be sworn into office in January 2021.

By Rachael Knowles