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Lambert comes out ahead in Cherokee primaries

fr lambertAs results poured in from the Primary Election for an open chief’s seat, Patrick Lambert’s campaign came out a clear winner, taking 1,751 of 2,964 votes in the unofficial tally — 59.1 percent in a spread of five candidates.

“It was a big night,” Lambert said. “It was a really big surprise, and I’m very happy with the vote and very humbled at the same time.”

The next-highest vote-getter, Gene “Tunney” Crowe, will face Lambert in the General Election Sept. 3. He received 498 votes, or 16.8 percent. 

Crowe said he’s “pleased with the results” and will spend the next few months “building his base,” something that Lambert’s already had a chance to do, as he’s run in the last two chief elections, Crowe pointed out. Both times, current Principal Chief Michell Hicks won by a narrow margin. Hicks, now at the end of his third term, opted not to run for re-election this year. 

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Crowe said. 

The differences between Lambert and Crowe, however, extend further than just experience chasing the chief’s office. Lambert’s spent his campaign so far decrying what he calls “runaway spending” and promising to bring “honest leadership” to the chief’s office, something he believes is not there currently. Lambert sides with the contingent of tribal members who are critical of the current administration, believing there’s not enough transparency or accountability, taking issue with spending decisions and standing opposed to Tribal Council’s decision to give themselves pay raises that many in the tribe believe are illegal. 

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Crowe, meanwhile, is a current member of Tribal Council, having served multiple terms there. He has voted in favor of a number of split-vote resolutions, including the $10,000 raises and back pay for council members, a $10 million pot of money for tribal operations technology upgrades and adoption of the Baker Roll as the tribe’s base roll. 

Crowe said he wasn’t yet able to comment on what will be the main issues driving the race. 

Lambert said he believes the main issue for him will be curbing spending and making sure the tribe is saving money, too. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, which supplies 90 percent of the tribe’s revenues, might not always be as successful as it is now, so it’s important to put some money away for a rainy day fund, he said. 

“I’m looking a ways that we can strengthen our reserves and our savings in order to prepare for any tough times we may have,” Lambert said. 

The winner of the chief’s race will serve with either incumbent Larry Blythe or challenger Richie Sneed as vice chief. Sneed came out slightly ahead of Blythe in the primary, with 990 votes compared to Blythe’s 847, or 33.9 and 30 percent, respectively in the field of four candidates. 

All current Tribal Council members — except for Crowe and David Wolfe, who both ran for chief instead of council — were among the top vote-getters progressing to the September election. The four top council candidates from each community — two for each of the two seats available — run in the General Election. 

Primary elections were not held for Tribal Council seats in Painttown and Snowbird or for Yellowhill school board, as neither of those races had more contenders running than would automatically participate in the General Election. 


The vote counts

The following candidates will appear on the General Election ballot in September. The top two vote-getters for each office — and four for each Tribal Council race, as every community gets two representatives — progress to that election. 

Principal Chief

  • Patrick Lambert, 1,751 votes; 59.1 percent
  • Gene “Tunney” Crowe, 498; 16.8 percent

Vice Chief

  • Richard “Richie” Sneed, 990; 33.9 percent
  • Larry Blythe, 847; 30 percent (I*)

Big Cove

  • Teresa McCoy, 143; 24.1 percent (I)
  • Perry Shell, 98; 16.5 percent (I)
  • Richard French, 82; 13.8 percent
  • Consie Girty, 77; 13 percent


  • Albert Rose, 441; 29.6 percent (I)
  • Travis K. Smith, 236; 15.8 percent
  • Terri Lee Taylor, 145; 9.7 percent
  • Gilbert Crowe, 140; 9.4 percent


  • Bo Crowe, 463; 35 percent (I)
  • Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor, 230; 17.4 percent (I)
  • Polly Jo Castorena, 142; 10.7 percent
  • Albert Martin Jr., 137; 10.4 percent


  • Anita Welch Lossiah, 160; 27.6 percent
  • Alan “B” Ensley, 133; 22.9 percent (I)
  • Arizona Jane Blankenship, 124; 21.4 percent
  • Tom Wahneta, 77; 13.4 percent

Painttown School Board

  • Charlotte Ann Saunooke, 192; 55.2 percent (I)
  • Trista Welch, 81; 23.3 percent

* “I” denotes incumbent 

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