UPDATED: Voters back Austin for another Dist. 14 term
TAHLEQUAH – Dist. 14 incumbent Keith Austin defended his seat June 1 against former Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts in an unofficial 579-440 vote (56.82 percent to 43.18 percent), which includes challenged ballots.
“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done the last few years,” Austin said after his win. “We’re in a good position to go forward and do good things.”
Austin, a businessman from Claremore, previously served on the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board. He was elected as a tribal councilor in 2015.
“The voters need to know that access and responsiveness is there,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been told over and over they were missing previously.”
Reflecting on his past four years in office, Austin said he’s most proud of “healing the divide.”
He expanded on that thought in a Cherokee Phoenix questionnaire.
“Four years ago there was much division between area Tribal Council representatives and the Cherokee Nation executive branch,” he stated. “I have made great strides to heal these divisions, and these efforts have led to many great partnerships with organizations within District 14. I have always believed we do more when we work together.”
His opponent, Watts, of Claremore, served on the Tribal Council from 2003-15, representing portions of Tulsa and Rogers counties.
“My heart is in service to the community,” she said in the candidate questionnaire. “I want every Cherokee to have a career path which guarantees their family a great income and stability.”
Watts is the CEO and owner of Claremore-based Pier Drilling.
The voting results from Dist. 14 do not include 22 challenged ballots, according to the Election Commission. The commission was expected to examine those ballots later June 2.
All results are unofficial until certified by the EC.
For all the June 1 races, recount requests must be received by June 5, and any recount must be completed by June 7. The deadline for appeals is June 10. Requests for absentee ballots in runoff races must be received by June 17. Absentee ballots will be mailed June 24-25. Walk-in or early absentee voting will be offered at the CNEC office on July 20 and 23-25. Runoff elections are July 27.