Supreme Court OKs 3 candidates, tosses Brown-Fleming

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
03/12/2019 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Supreme Court heard candidate-eligibility appeals on March 11. The court deemed candidates Chuck Hoskin Jr., Bryan Warner and Debra Proctor eligible to run. It dismissed Rhonda Brown-Fleming as a principal chief candidate and had yet to rule on Buel Anglen’s candidacy. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Supreme Court heard candidate-eligibility appeals on March 11. The court deemed candidates Chuck Hoskin Jr., Bryan Warner and Debra Proctor eligible to run. It dismissed Rhonda Brown-Fleming as a principal chief candidate and had yet to rule on Buel Anglen’s candidacy. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on March 12 affirmed that a principal chief candidate was ineligible to run, but three other hopefuls made the cut.

Rhonda Brown-Fleming, a Freedman descendant who filed to run for principal chief in the June 1 election, was initially deemed ineligible to run by the Election Commission after two CN citizens challenged her candidacy.

“The candidate lives in California and does not meet the residency requirements of the election code,” EC attorney Harvey Chaffin said during a March 11 Supreme Court hearing.

A qualification for the principal chief position is living within the CN jurisdiction for at least 270 days prior to the general election.

Brown-Fleming filed a Supreme Court appeal, which the court dismissed in a March 12 order.

Her removal from the race leaves principal chief candidates Chuck Hoskin Jr., Dist. 3 Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick and Dist. 12 Tribal Councilor Dick Lay.

The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of three candidates whose eligibility was challenged by CN citizen Robin Mayes.

Mayes had challenged the eligibility of Hoskin, deputy chief candidate Bryan Warner and Dist. 3 candidate Debra Proctor, alleging they accepted in-kind contributions via a professional campaign manager before they were legally allowed to under CN election law.

Section 44 of the CN election code states no candidate “shall receive campaign contributions prior to the beginning of the six month period immediately preceding” an election, which in the case of the June 1 general election would be Dec. 1.

“These candidates, they’re working with professional campaign managers,” Mayes told the Supreme Court on March 11. “They’re working on their campaigns way in advance. I think the Cherokee people need to know if it’s illegal, if it’s disqualifying or not.”

After hearing both sides in February, the EC deemed the three candidates eligible.

Affirming that decision, the Supreme Court’s March 12 order states that Mayes “presented no evidence” on March 11 that the candidates failed to meet eligibility requirements.

Attorney Doug Dodd represented Hoskin, the former secretary of state, and Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor Warner. Dodd said Mayes was “talking about disqualification while the issue here is eligibility.”

“I would say that his cart is before his horse, and the horse is not that good,” Dodd said. “We believe the Election Commission ruled properly.”

Representing the EC, Chaffin said it found “no violations of campaign law.”

As of early March 12, the Supreme Court had not issued a ruling for Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen, the current Dist. 13 representative.

In February, the EC tossed Anglen’s candidacy after opponent Joe Deere challenged his eligibility.

Deere and his attorney claimed, that based on term limits, Anglen is ineligible to run, and the EC agreed.

“The Election Commission is wrong,” attorney and former Principal Chief Chad Smith told Supreme Court justices on Anglen’s behalf during a March 11 hearing.

Anglen’s initial run on the council began in 2002, when he was appointed to fill a Dist. 8 vacancy. He was elected to the seat in 2003, serving a full term.

In 2007, when term limits took effect under the tribe’s current Constitution, Anglen was elected again for Dist. 8. However, the typical four-year term was extended to six years to stagger terms of half the council.

Because of redistricting, Anglen lost his seat and wasn’t allowed to run in the 2013 general election. He sat out for two year before winning the Dist. 13 seat in 2015. Dist. 8 now covers part of Adair County and is represented by Shawn Crittenden.

Deere’s attorney, Carly Griffith Hotvedt, said Anglen should “be required to sit out four years” before he’s eligible to run again.

CN law restricts councilors to two consecutive four-year terms. The Constitution states that, “All Council members having served two consecutive terms must sit out one term before seeking any seat on the Council.”

Smith argued that Anglen complied with “the letter and spirit of the Constitution.”

“We find nothing in the law that requires him to sit out four years,” he said. “We all know consecutive is not a vague term. It requires uninterrupted service. His next consecutive term would have been in 2013, but he didn’t run. He waited until 2015 to run.”

The term limit provisions, Hotvedt said, were designed to prevent “the consolidation of power.” During the Supreme Court appeal, she laid out scenarios in which two-year sit-out terms could be exploited.

Deere, speaking to Cherokee Freedmen the prior weekend, addressed the possibility of Anglen’s return to the race. “At the worst, if he wins, we just keep campaigning and fighting.”
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