Candidates for 2015 election declare
BY TESINA JACKSON
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Despite the filing period for the Cherokee Nation’s next election being more than a year away, three CN citizens have stated their intentions to run for the principal chief position in 2015.
Current Principal Chief Bill John Baker, former Principal Chief Chad Smith and Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts have publicly stated they plan to run for the position in 2015.
As of Jan. 10, CN Election Commission officials said they had not set dates for the candidate filing period. According to the tribe's election law, the filing date shall be a four-day period commencing at 8 a.m. on the first Monday of March of the election year and end at 5 p.m. on the first Tuesday following the first Monday.
Baker, who was elected principal chief in 2011, said he intends on having a second term as principal chief.
“We’re making progress everyday. We’ve got $100 million in our hospital and clinics. We’re in different stages of construction. We’re building homes for our people for the first time in a decade. We’ve done more scholarships for Cherokee students than have ever been done. The businesses are more profitable than they have ever been. We’ve expanded car tags to the entire state of Oklahoma. I mean things that have been dreamed about for years have happened only in the first two years of my administration.”
Baker also said he plans to have Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden as his running mate in the 2015 election.
“When I was running the first time, one of the things I heard when I was out in the communities was the need for positive change,” Crittenden said. “I believe change has happened and working with someone who has a vision and such a benevolent heart like Bill John Baker, it’s easy to follow someone like that. It’s been a good couple of years and I look forward to more.”
Smith, who announced his intention to run on Dec. 23, served three terms as principal chief from 1999 to 2011. Smith lost to Baker after a tumultuous election that had four recounts, the federal government intervening and a second chief’s election.
“Thousands and thousands of Cherokees have believed in me in the past years, and in the last election, and continue to share our optimistic vision for our Cherokee Nation,” he said.
Smith said he currently has no running mate.
Cowan Watts, who was elected as a Tribal Councilor in 2003, currently represents the tribe’s Dist. 13. She said she decided to run for chief in 2015 because she wants to continue serving the Cherokee people.
“I pledge to restore the Cherokee Nation to the Cherokee people by ensuring Cherokee preference in hiring and contracting is fully enforced,” Cowan Watts said. “By serving the Cherokee people first, there are many opportunities to improve our government and protect tribal sovereignty for future generations.”
Cowan Watts’ running mate for the deputy chief seat will be fellow Tribal Councilor Lee Keener, who represents Dist. 14. Keener said he is deciding to run as deputy chief because he feels the Nation is on an uncertain course.
“We will work with the council to bring transparency to our government, increase our productivity and workforce and expand access to health care, housing and education. Instead of making promises, we will deliver on them. It's time for new faces and new perspectives. We need new thinking in government. I run for the Cherokee families and for the future that they will inherit.”
The CN is Oklahoma’s largest American Indian tribe and one of the nation’s biggest, with a citizenship of more than 300,000 people. The Tahlequah-based tribe has a 14-county jurisdiction in eastern Oklahoma.
As of Jan. 9, the CN had more than 50,000 registered voters, according to EC officials.
According to a previous Cherokee Phoenix article, more than 15,000 voters cast ballots in the 2011 principal chief election.
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Bill John Baker
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