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Landslide win makes Lambert new Cherokee chief

fr lambertThere was nothing ambiguous about Patrick Lambert’s win in the race for Cherokee Principal Chief last week. His victory came in a landslide of 71 percent.

“In tonight’s victory is a powerful truth,” Lambert said in his victory speech. “I believe this election is a clear sign from our people that they are ready for leadership with a bold new vision.”

Lambert said he was feeling confident going into Election Day but wasn’t quite prepared for the outpouring of support as election results rolled in. Voters crowded the Birdtown Gym for Lambert’s victory party afterward, and congratulations flooded his campaign’s Facebook page. 

“I think it’s really our message that we just kept putting out there in the campaign,” Lambert said of the reason for his win. “What I kept hearing from people is that they were wanting to have an honest and accountable government.”

Lambert’s win wasn’t the only decisive outcome of the election. The tribe’s entire upper leadership saw a turnover. Richie Sneed took 59 percent of the vote in the vice chief’s race against incumbent Larry Blythe and Tribal Council Chairwoman Terri Henry lost re-election. 

Perry Shell, of Big Cove, and David Wolfe, who ran as a write-in for Yellowhill council after losing a primary bid for chief, won’t be returning to council either. Neither will Gene “Tunney” Crowe, of Birdtown, who ran for chief against Lambert.

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The eight incumbents who kept their seats didn’t necessarily have an easy time of it. Longtime Yellowhill councilmember Alan “B” Ensley came in only four votes ahead of challenger Arizona Jane Blankenship, which means a recount will be held. Painttown Representative Tommye Saunooke and Big Cove Representative Teresa McCoy both won re-election, but neither was the top vote-getter. 

“One would think that is a message to that particular person that, ‘We put out the councilmember who serves with you. We have that power. Listen to what we say,’” said Ben Bushyhead, a tribal member who serves as a Swain County commissioner. 

Both Bushyhead and Lambert said the controversy over pay raises the majority of councilmembers voted themselves last year likely played a role in the election results. The council raises — salary increasess of more than $10,000, effective immediately, and as much as $33,000 in back pay for the years when the representatives supposedly should have already been earning the extra money — aroused the ire of many tribal members. The issue reignited in August, when Principal Chief Michell Hicks’ proposed budget included yet another raise for Tribal Council. 

“I think it’s one of those things that is kind of an undercurrent, but it also kind of festers and the voting was the way that they (tribal members) had a way to express their feelings about it,” Bushyhead said. 

Excitement is palpable in Cherokee over what some see as the beginning of a new era. But on the other hand, those who have seen their share of political turnovers before are waiting to see results. 

“It will take a little work to see where we are,” Bushyhead said. “I have high hopes, with a little caution thrown in.”


The results


• Patrick Lambert, 71 percent

• Gene “Tunney” Crowe Jr., 26.5 percent

• Mary Crowe (W)*, 2.5 percent

Vice chief

• Richard “Richie” Sneed, 59.1 percent

• Larry Blythe (I)**, 40.9 percent

Tribal Council

The top two vote-getters from each community will serve. 

Big Cove

• Richard French, 28.7 percent

• Teresa McCoy (I), 27.6 percent

• Consie Girty, 24.9 percent

• Perry Shell (I), 18.9 percent


• Bo Crowe (I), 39.7 percent

• Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor (I), 23.5 percent

• Albert Martin Jr., 20.1 percent

• Polly Jo Castorena, 16.7 percent


• Albert Rose (I), 37.3 percent

• Travis K. Smith, 30.2 percent

• Terri Lee Taylor, 16.9 percent

• Gilbert Crowe, 15.6 percent


• Brandon Jones (I), 31.7 percent

• Adam Wachacha (I), 28.8 percent

• Janell Rattler, 23.9 percent

• Bucky Brown, 15.6 percent


• Marie Junaluska, 33.1 percent

• Tommye Saunooke (I), 30.1 percent

• Terri Henry (I), 24.1 percent

• Lu Jackson (W), 6.8 percent

• Pete Taylor (W), 5.9 percent


• Anita Welch Lossiah, 27.9 percent 

• Alan “B” Ensley (I), 23.1 percent

• Arizona Jane Blankenship, 22.6 percent

• Tom Wahnetah, 13.4 percent

• David Wolfe (W), 13.1 percent

* (W) denotes write-in candidate

** (I) denotes incumbent

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