|Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee|
January 3, 2003 - January 3, 2005
January 3, 2001 - June 6, 2001
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1993 - January 3, 2005
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Colorado's 3rd district
January 3, 1987 - January 3, 1993
April 13, 1933
Auburn, California, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (before 1995)|
|Branch/service||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1951-1953|
|Rank||Airman Second Class E-4|
|Awards|| Korean Service Medal|
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (born April 13, 1933) is a Cheyenne-American politician who served as a U.S. Representative from 1987 to 1993, and a U.S. Senator from Colorado from 1993 to 2005. He serves as one of forty-four members of the Council of Chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe. During his time in office, he was the only American Indian serving in the U.S. Congress.
Originally a member of the Democratic Party, Campbell switched to the Republican Party on March 3, 1995. Reelected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, Campbell announced in March 2004 that he would not run for reelection to a third term in November of that year. His Senate seat was then won by Democrat Ken Salazar in the November 2004 election. He later expressed interest in running for Governor of Colorado in 2006; however, on January 4, 2006, he announced that he would not enter the race. He later became a lobbyist for the law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight and afterward co-founded his own lobbying firm, Ben Nighthorse Consultants.
Campbell was born Benny Campbell in Auburn, California. His mother, Mary Vierra (Vieira), was a Portuguese immigrant who had come with her mother to the U.S. at age six through Ellis Island, (according to Campbell, his maternal grandfather had entered the United States some time before.) The Vierra family settled in the large Portuguese community near Sacramento. When Mary Vierra contracted tuberculosis in her youth, she was forced to convalesce at a nearby hospital, often for months at a time during treatment. It was there that she met an American Indian patient Albert Campbell, who was at the hospital for alcoholism treatment. Albert Campbell was of predominantly Northern Cheyenne descent but, according to Nighthorse Campbell biographer Herman Viola, Albert Campbell spent much of his youth in Crow Agency boarding school and may have had some Pueblo Indian and Apache Indian blood in his background as well. The couple married in 1929, and Campbell was born in 1933.
During Campbell's childhood, his father continued to have problems with alcoholism, often leaving the family for weeks and months at a time. His mother continued to have health problems with tuberculosis, a highly contagious disease that limited the contact she could have with her children and continued to force her into the hospital for long periods of time. These problems led to Ben and his older sister Alberta (who died in an apparent suicide at age 44) spending much of their early lives in nearby Catholic orphanages. As a young man, Campbell was introduced to the Japanese martial art of judo by Japanese immigrant families he met while working in local agricultural fields.
Campbell attended Placer High School, dropping out in 1951 to join the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in Korea during the Korean War as an air policeman; he left the Air Force in 1953 with the rank of Airman Second Class, as well as the Korean Service Medal and the Air Medal. While in the Air Force, Campbell obtained his GED and, following his discharge, used his G.I. Bill to attend San Jose State University, where he graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education and Fine Arts.
He is listed as Ben M. Campbell in his college records and records of his Olympic competition, but was given the name "Nighthorse" when he returned to the Northern Cheyenne reservation for his name-giving ceremony, as a member of his father's family, Blackhorse.
While in college, Campbell was a member of the San Jose State judo team, coached by future USA Olympic coach Yosh Uchida. While training for the Olympic Games, Campbell attended Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan as a special research student from 1960-1964. The Meiji team was world-renowned and Campbell credited the preparation and discipline taught at Meiji for his 1961, 1962, and 1963 U.S. National titles and his gold medal in the 1963 Pan-American Games. In 1964, Campbell competed in judo at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He suffered an injury and did not win a medal. He broke his ankle and was out for two years.
In the years after returning from the Olympic Games, Campbell worked as a deputy sheriff in Sacramento County, California, coached the U.S. National Judo Team, operated his own dojo in Sacramento, and taught high school (physical education and art classes). He and his wife also raised quarterhorses, including a Supreme Champion and AQHA Champion, "Sailors Night". They bought a ranch near Ignacio, Colorado on the Southern Ute reservation in 1978.
In the book Ben Nighthorse Campbell: An American Warrior, by Herman Viola, Campbell tells of learning to make jewelry from his father and flattening silver dollars on train tracks for the materials. He also used techniques learned from sword makers in Japan and other non-traditional techniques to win over 200 national and international awards for jewelry design under the name, "Ben Nighthorse" and was included in a feature article in the late 1970s in Arizona Highways magazine about Native artists experimenting in the 'new look' of Indian jewelry. Campbell has works on display with the Art of the Olympians organization.
Campbell was elected to the Colorado State Legislature as a Democrat in November 1982, where he served two terms. He was voted one of the 10 Best Legislators by his colleagues in a 1986 Denver Post - News Center 4 survey. Campbell was elected in 1986 to the US House of Representatives, defeating incumbent Congressman Mike Strang; he was re-elected twice to this seat. In 1989, he authored the bill HR 2668 to establish the National Museum of the American Indian, which became PL 101-185.
The early 1990s marked a turning point in Campbell's political career. In 1992, following the announced retirement of Senator Tim Wirth, Campbell won a three-way Democratic primary with former three-term Governor Richard Lamm and Boulder County Commissioner Josie Heath, who had been the party's nominee in 1990. During the primary campaign, Lamm supporters accused Heath of "spoiling" the election by splitting the vote of the party's left wing. Heath's campaign pointed out that it was Campbell who should not have been running because his voting record in Congress had been much more like that of a Republican. Campbell won the primary with 45% of the vote and then defeated Republican State Senator Terry Considine in the general election. As a Democrat, Campbell was the first Native American elected to serve in the United States Senate since Charles Curtis in the 1920s.
In March 1995, after two years in office, Senator Campbell switched parties from Democratic to Republican in the wake of publicized disputes he had with the Colorado Democratic Party. The Senator said that the final straw for him was the Senate's defeat of the balanced-budget amendment, which he has championed since coming to Washington as a congressman in 1987. Others attributed the switch to personal hostility within the Democratic Party in Colorado.
In 1998, Campbell won re-election to the Senate by what was then the largest margin in Colorado history for a statewide race. After winning re-election, Campbell identified as a moderate Republican saying that ''[his re-election] shows the moderate voices within the Republican Party are dominating.'' In the 106th Congress, he passed more public laws than any individual member of Congress. During his tenure, Campbell also became the first American Indian to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. In 1999, Campbell voted to support the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, a ruling which legalized abortion nationwide. He had also been one of seven Republicans who voted "to block an immediate vote" on a bill to ban what were called "partial-birth abortions." He became gradually more conservative during his time in the Senate; he retired from office in January 2005. He opposes same-sex marriage and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act while in the Senate. However, in 2004, he was one of six Republicans who voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, a constitutional amendment intended to ban same-sex marriage.
The Senate ethics committee investigated accusations that his former chief of staff inflated bonuses to an aide in 2002 so he could return the money to the chief of staff. In subsequent interviews, the chief of staff and aide both asserted that Campbell had approved of the deal.
After his retirement, Campbell was a senior policy advisor at the firm of Holland and Knight, LLP in Washington, DC. In July 2012, he left that firm to found Ben Nighthorse Consultants, a new lobbying firm. He also continues to design and craft his Ben Nighthorse line of American Indian jewelry.
In 1966, Campbell married the former Linda Price, a public school teacher who was a native of Colorado. The couple have two married children, Colin (Karen) Campbell and Shanan (John) Wells. They have four grandchildren. The Campbells still reside in Colorado and are practicing Catholics.
Linda Campbell was the sponsor of USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) on January 15, 2005.
A supporter of then-Ohio governor John Kasich in the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, he later voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, stating "I hope he does well, particularly with China."
While Campbell and several former Republican and Democrat senators previously signed a letter supporting the investigation of then-Special Council Robert Mueller into alleged Russian-collusion in the 2016 election, he later commented that the impeachment efforts against President Trump were "a waste of time."
|Republican||Ben Nighthorse Campbell (incumbent)||829,370||62.49%||+19.78%|
|Libertarian||David S. Segal||14,024||1.06%||+1.06%|
|Natural Law||Jeffrey Peckham||4,101||0.31%|
Media related to Ben Nighthorse Campbell at Wikimedia Commons
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado's 3rd congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Colorado
| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Colorado
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Colorado
Served alongside: Hank Brown, Wayne Allard
| Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
| Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
| Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee