The sun sets at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Okla., which Cherokee NationEntertainment bought from the Choctaw Nation in December. (Photo courtesy ofChoctaw Nation)
Cherokee Nation buys Blue Ribbon Downs
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials on Dec. 10 announced that they closed a deal with the Choctaw Nation to purchase Blue Ribbon Downs, a horse racing track in Sallisaw. The property consists of nearly 100 acres in Sequoyah County and is located near Interstate 40 and Highway 64, two miles west of the Cherokee Casino Sallisaw, which CNE operates. “We had an opportunity to purchase property that is within our tribal jurisdiction so we always closely consider that, and see it as a wise business decision to take advantage of that any time we can,” CNE CEO David Stewart said.The BRD purchase means CNE now owns two horse racing tracks. The other is Will Rogers Down in Claremore. CNE officials stated in a press release that there are no “immediate plans” for BRD. In a Dec. 14 meeting, CN administration officials said the property was purchased for the real estate and assets and that they would not reopen it as a horse track. Principal Chief Chad Smith said there was no economic viability for the property as a race track.
According to the Sequoyah County Clerk’s Office, the tribe bought the property for approximately $2.5 million. CNE’s purchase of BRD includes land, facilities and equipment.
“The purchase is also an opportunity for us to utilize some of the equipment at Will Rogers Downs, which will provide some needed upgrades at that facility,” Stewart said.CNE had planned to purchase the property in 2003 at a sheriff’s auction. However, a Choctaw Nation-owned business bought it for $4.25 million a day before the auction.The Choctaws put the property up for sale more than a year ago. Claiming financial problems they ended their six-year operation of BRD, which included horse racing and electronic gaming, in November after the track’s fall racing dates concluded. BRD began racing in the early 1960s. In 1984 it became the state’s first track to offer pari-mutuel racing. However, the track has a history of financial struggles. Not only did the Choctaws experience financial problems with it, but past owners did as well. The track has been in bankruptcy twice – in 1997 and 2002.“The Choctaws did an excellent job in trying to make the track profitable,” Stewart said. “As owners of a track in Oklahoma, we understand the economics of the industry.”In 2008, the Choctaw Nation chose not to renew its license with the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, signaling the closure of the track. BRD is now considered an unauthorized gaming facility. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted the Choctaw Nation for comment regarding the sale, but was referred to the CNE press release.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified recount results, Wanda Hatfield and Betsy Swimmer are still the top two vote-getters who will face each other in the July 25 runoff for the At-Large Tribal Council seat.
Following the June 27 general election, Election Commission officials posted results showing Hatfield leading with 25.94 percent of the ballots cast at 1,057 votes. Swimmer was second with 18.9 percent or 770 votes.
Following the July 2 recount, Hatfield continued to lead with 1,057 votes, but Swimmer lost seven votes to finish with 763.
The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to learn what happened to the seven votes, but as of press time EC officials were unavailable for comment.
Swimmer said she was confident the EC had valid numbers.
“So I’m pleased that it came out like it did,” she said. “I’m pressing forward and I plan to win the election.”
Hatfield said the top three finishers remained the same with the recount and congratulated Swimmer on being in the runoff.
“It has been a great experience and the next three weeks will be extremely busy reaching out to the At-Large Cherokee citizens,” she added.
Candidate Shane Jett, who requested the recount, received 717 votes in the general election, but saw his vote count lowered to 713 in the recount.
Jett said with the 2015 election being his first venture into Cherokee politics it was a learning experience, especially the importance of voters ensuring they cast their ballots correctly.
“They (EC) had to throw away over 350 absentee ballots because they either did not sign them, notarize them or fill them out properly. So those votes were never counted,” he said. “It’s important that people slow down and make sure their vote counts. I hope everyone gets out and votes for their candidate of choice because their (Cherokee) Nation is worth it.”
The EC performed the recount with CN Supreme Court justices present before certifying the results.
Runoff absentee ballots will be mailed on July 13-14 and the runoff election will take place on July 25.
All successful candidates are to be sworn into office on Aug. 14, according to the CN election timeline.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to the certified results from a July 2 recount, William “Bill” Pearson has beaten Keith Austin by six votes to win the Dist. 14 Tribal Council seat.
Original certified results from the June 27 general election showed Pearson receiving 534 votes for 50.5 percent of the ballots cast, while Austin garnered 533 votes for 49.95 percent.
Austin filed for a recount, which the tribe’s Election Commission performed. After that recount, Pearson had 525 votes for 50.2 percent compared to Austin’s 519 votes at 49.7 percent.
The votes tabulated during the recount consisted of precinct, absentee, early absentee and precinct challenged.
The recount had 23 votes less compared to the original count. EC officials said that occurred because of human error when inputting votes.
“The challenged ballots from the districts were processed on Sunday (June 28) beginning at ”1 p.m. through 12:11 a.m. on Monday and resulted in 349 out of approximately 700 challenged ballots being accepted,” an EC statement reads. “The 349 ballots were then fed through a voting machine that was pre-defined for absentees, to get the vote count for the various races and candidates. The card from the machine was then placed in the computer to print out the challenged vote results. And unbeknownst to the operator it recorded the ballots as absentee votes then the operator took the printout of challenged ballots and manually entered them for the appropriate race and candidate, resulting in the 349 votes being entered twice.”
The EC statement also reads that once this was discovered, those votes entered into the machine under absentee were removed. The challenged votes that were correctly placed in districts remained in those districts.
“Resulting in the 349 being correctly counted,” the release stated.
The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Pearson but he was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
In an email statement, Austin did not state whether he would appeal the recount results to the Supreme Court but that he appreciated the EC’s hard work.
“They have the impossible job of determining a certifiable winner in a race that could not be closer,” Austin wrote. “Obviously, we want to work with the Election Commission and the Supreme Court to help determine that the election results are accurate. Cherokees took the time to vote because they have faith in our Nation. We owe it to them to ensure their intentions are honored and their votes count.”
The EC certified the recount on July 2 in the presence of Supreme Court justices.
Candidates have until July 6 to appeal election results with the Supreme Court. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court would hear those cases July 7-9.
Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are expected to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline. The runoff election is set for July 25.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9410_ExplanationofRecalculationofVoteCount.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Explanation of Recalculation of Vote Count document.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — At-Large Tribal Council candidate Shane Jett submitted a formal recount request Wednesday to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission after certified General Election results showed Jett finished third to candidates Wanda Hatfield and Betsy Swimmer.
After Election Commission officials tabulated challenge ballots Sunday, results had Jett with 717 votes to Hatfield’s 1,057 votes and Swimmer’s 770 votes. Hatfield and Swimmer are scheduled for a run-off election Saturday, July 25, since no candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, pending the outcome of the requested recount.
Election Commission officials are now waiting on a formal order from the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court to begin preparation for the recount. Officials must have the recount completed by Friday, July 3.
A recount for the District 14 race was ordered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday after candidate Keith Austin submitted a formal request late Monday. District 14 candidates Keith Austin and William Pearson were separated by one vote in the certified election results.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Fire fastpitch softball team will face girls from all across the country when they travel July 13-18 to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to compete in the USSSA National World Series.
The team is comprised of 14 girls, 12 of which are Cherokee, from the Tahlequah area. They reserved their spot for the series on June 21 by capturing the Oklahoma State 12u Rec/All-Stars Championship in Bixby.
The team is also fundraising for the trip. It created a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $15,000. To visit the page, go to <a href=" http://www.gofundme.com/okfire" target="_blank">http://www.gofundme.com/okfire</a>.
The team is also holding an Indian taco sale from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 3 at the Oklahoma American Legion Post 135 In Tahlequah. Tickets can be purchased in advance from parents, players and team partner O’Reilly Auto Parts.
TULSA, Okla. – Jonathan Powell, director of marketing and business development for Cherokee Nation Industries, was recently named to the Federal Communications Commission’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council.
“It is an honor to receive this nomination and to have the opportunity to serve as a voice for rural and tribal communities while influencing advancements in our nation’s communications systems,” said Powell. “My focus is providing the best services to all citizens, continuing to bridge interoperability gaps and ensuring rural and tribal land is a consideration when making recommendations to the FCC.”
A CN citizen and Pryor native, Powell has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University in finance and a master’s degree in business administration from Oklahoma City University.
Powell will join the fifth charter of the CSRIC, which provides guidance, expertise and recommendations to the FCC to ensure optimal security and reliability of the nation’s communications systems.
The council addresses the availability of communications during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other events that result in exceptional strain on the communications infrastructure, as well as the rapid restoration of communications services in the event of widespread or major disruptions.
“Mr. Powell is a valuable asset at CNI, leading teams in the areas of market strategy and research, partnership development, sales planning and business development,” said Chris Moody, CNI president. “As a leader within a tribally owned business, he provides a unique and valuable insight to the CSRIC that will be crucial for the future of communications in tribal entities and Indian Country.”
Members of the CSRIC are appointed by the chairman of the FCC and selected from public safety agencies, consumer or community organizations or other nonprofit entities and the private sector to balance various expertise and viewpoints.
In this month's issue:
• Baker, Crittenden win 2nd terms
• 6 Tribal Council candidates win, 2 are incumbents
• Dist. 6, At-Large council races head to runoffs
• Chief, governor sign hunting, fishing compact
...plus much more.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9402_2015-07-01.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the July 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix.