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McCoy, Sneed will be General Election principal chief candidates

McCoy, Sneed will be General Election  principal chief candidates

Voters made their choices during last week’s Primary Elections in Cherokee, with Teresa McCoy coming in as the top vote-getter in the race for principal chief and two incumbent Tribal Council members failing to survive through September’s General Election.

Councilmembers Jeremy Wilson, of Wolfetown, and Lisa Taylor, of Painttown, both came in fifth place in their races for re-election, just shy of the cut for the General Election, which takes the top four vote-getters in each township’s Tribal Council race.

Wolfetown had by far the greatest number of Tribal Council candidates, with 10 names on the ballot and one write-in candidate vying for two seats. While Wilson didn’t garner the support he needed to make it to September, fellow incumbent Bo Crowe was far-and-away the most popular candidate, securing 430 votes. Coming in a distant second was former Chairman Bill Taylor, with 172 votes. Taylor lost his re-election bid in the September 2017 General Election, when he came in last among the four candidates.

In many townships, incumbents seemed to do well. Birdtown incumbents Albert Rose and Boyd Owle handily topped the list in that community, with 375 and 428 votes, respectively. Coming in third and fourth were Nelson Lambert with 299 votes and Ashley Sessions with 183. Likewise, Yellowhill incumbents Tom Wahnetah and David Wolfe smoked the competition with 166 and 223 votes, respectively, while the next-highest vote-getter had only 76 votes. Big Cove representatives Richard French and Perry Shell also came out on top, though the gap between them and third-place Fred Penick was smaller than in Yellowhill due to Penick’s 141 votes.

Vice Chief Alan “B” Ensley also saw a decisive victory in his bid for election to the seat he was appointed to following the impeachment of former Principal Chief Patrick Lambert. He secured 1,089 votes, taking 38 percent of those cast for one of eight candidates. Second-place Jim Owle had about half that, at 551 votes.

Two surviving incumbents who did not top the voting in their races were Principal Chief Richard Sneed and Councilmember Tommye Saunooke, of Painttown. Saunooke’s counterpart in Painttown, Lisa Taylor, will not be on the General Election ballot at all, and challenger Dike Sneed took first place in the voting ahead of Saunooke, who commanded 151 votes to Sneed’s 169.

McCoy, meanwhile, edged Sneed in the chief’s race with 1,132 votes to his 1,117.

McCoy’s journey to the ballot had been a tumultuous one, with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Board of Elections initially declining to certify her for election due to an incident dating back to 1996, which they said counted as “defrauding the tribe” — Cherokee law states that people who are guilty of defrauding the tribe can’t stand for election.

The Cherokee Supreme Court reversed that action following a four-hour hearing, ordering the election board to certify McCoy to run. In a written opinion released last week, the court said the proceedings used to decertify McCoy were “fundamentally flawed,” concluding that, “fundamental fairness was violated here, and consequently, that the Board’s decision must be reversed.”

The opinion was written by Chief Justice Kirk Saunooke and signed by Associate Justice Robert Hunter. Associate Justice Brenda Pipestem concurred with most of the opinion, citing “gross violations of due process” but said that due to these issues there is “simply no clear, reliable factual record for this Court to review.” If it weren’t for the “strict timelines” imposed by the impending June election, she wrote, she would remand the matter to the board of elections to hear again.

The majority opinion, however, seemed to look askance at the fact that the issue — which involved an honorarium and travel expenses McCoy accepted for a trip in which the tribe had already paid her travel expenses — was apparently well-known at the time yet failed to make any trouble for McCoy until now, despite the fact that she’d run in every election since.

“Nothing in the record indicates that the 1996 University payment incident that was discussed publicly in The Cherokee One Feather was unknown or recently discovered by the Tribe or the Board, or that any new or recent evidence bearing on the 1996 incident had been discovered by the Board,” the opinion reads.

Following the board’s vote to certify McCoy, tribal member Robert Saunooke filed a protest of her certification, seeking another hearing before the board to argue for McCoy’s decertification. The Supreme Court granted McCoy’s petition for a writ of prohibition to prevent that hearing from happening, writing that “to allow a new hearing this close to the June 6, 2019, primary election brought under a similar statute (Cherokee Code 1616-4.1, governing decertification of a candidate) with respect to the same underlying legal issues based on the same underlying incident in a matter that this court has already decided, would frustrate the Court’s order of April 29, 2019, violate fundamental fairness, and cause appellant to suffer irreparable harm.”

Saunooke then filed a petition to intervene as a party in the case and have the court dissolve its order on the writ of prohibition. The court has not issued an order on that petition.

James Kilbourne, McCoy’s attorney, said he believes the issue is moot now that the June 6 election is complete.

“We have no expectations regarding the next action by the court or by the elections board, but we believe the Ms. McCoy’s victory clearly demonstrates her deep support in the community,” he said.

Saunooke did not return a request for comment on the issue.

Hear from the candidates

The Cherokee One Feather will host a series of candidate debates this month. All debates will start at 5 p.m. with the first group listed and be held at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center in Cherokee. Debates will be:

n Tuesday, June 18: Big Cove and Birdtown Tribal Council.

n Thursday, June 20: Snowbird/Cherokee County and Painttown Tribal Council.

n Tuesday, June 25: Wolfetown and Yellowhill Tribal Council.

n Thursday, June 27: Vice and principal chiefs.

One Feather Editor Robert Jumper will moderate the debates.

The results

All 12 Tribal Council seats, the principal chief’s office, the vice chief’s office and three school board seats are up for grabs in this year’s elections. The top two vote-getters for each seat will go on to the General Election slated for Thursday, Sept. 5. Voter registration will re-open June 10.

Candidates are listed in order of the votes received, with those advancing to the September election shown in bold. Due to a smaller number of candidates signing up, no Primary Election was held for Snowbird/ Cherokee County Tribal Council or for any of the three school board races. Vote counts are preliminary until certified by Tribal Council.

Principal Chief

Teresa McCoy                                  1132

Richard Sneed                                 1117

Carroll “Peanut” Crowe              433

Gary R. Ledford                              125

Phillip Ellington                           54

Vice Chief

Alan “B” Ensley                            1089

Jim Owle                                           551

Albert Martin                                  451

Terri Henry                                       255

Anita Welch Lossiah                    216

James Bud Smith                             121

Ben Parker                                        107

Frank Pete Taylor                           75

Birdtown Tribal Council

Boyd Owle                                       428

Albert Rose                                      375

Nelson Lambert                              299

Ashley Sessions                             183

Curtis Wildcatt                               140

Alyne Stamper                                 88

Painttown Tribal Council

Dike Sneed                                       169

Tommye Saunooke                         151

Cherie Bird Rose                            105

Pamela Sneed                                   104

 Lisa Taylor                                      103

Big Y/Wolfetown Tribal Council

Bo Crowe                                          430

Bill Taylor                                        172

Nathanial “Bunsey” Crowe        122

Chelsea Saunooke                          118

Jeremy Wilson                                 105

Sam “Frell” Reed                            101

Paula “Cricket” Brown Wojtkowski  88

Jess “Fonzie” Sneed                      86

Tony Cabe                                        85

James David Jumper                       47

Susan Toineeta (write-in)            15

Yellowhill Tribal Council

David T. Wolfe                                223

Tom Wahnetah                                166

Stephanie Saunooke French        76

Tawania Ensley                              64

Rose Shell-Maney                          55

Big Cove Tribal Council

Richard French                                186

Perry Shell                                       164

Fred Penick                                      141

Renee Long Cole                            100

Walter French                                  35

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