EC tosses White’s candidacy, confirms Cochran’s run
Cherokee Nation citizen Randy White, who filed to run in Dist. 11, looks at evidence presented by his challenger’s attorney, Curtis Bruehl, on Feb. 23 at the Election Commission Office. White’s challenger, Chance Hayes, is seated next to Bruehl. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During a meeting to hear candidacy challenges, the Election Commission on Feb. 23 ruled that Cherokee Nation citizen Randy Junior White could not run for the Dist. 11 Tribal Council seat, stating he is not Cherokee by blood.
The EC cited Article VI of the 1999 Constitution, Section 31.A.1 of Title 26 of the CN Code Annotated and the Judicial Appeals Tribunal ruling Lucy Allen v. Tribal Council (JAT-04-09).
The 1999 Constitution states the council shall consist of 17 members “who are citizens by blood of the Cherokee Nation.” Section 31.A.1 of Title 26 is similar, stating a “candidate shall be a citizen of Cherokee Nation, in accordance with Article IV of the Constitution of Cherokee Nation and shall be a citizen by blood of Cherokee Nation.”
Article IV of the Constitution states all CN citizens “must be enrollees or descendants of original enrollees listed on the Dawes Commission Rolls, including the…Shawnee Cherokee of Article III of the Shawnee Agreement dated the 9th day of June, 1869, and/or their descendants.”
The Lucy Allen v. Tribal Council ruling states “Shawnees are actually listed on the ‘Cherokee by blood’ pages of the Dawes Commission Rolls. There are no separate Cherokee Shawnee pages. On the census cards, Shawnees are listed with a blood degree and are referenced as ‘AS’ or ‘Adopted Shawnee.’ The Shawnee are Cherokee citizens on the Dawes rolls, but they are citizens by adoption, not ‘by blood.’”
It also states the only time a legal right, under Cherokee law, depends on Cherokee blood, is when a person decides to run for elected office.
“In that instance, we rely on the blood degree findings of the Dawes Commission to make sure or Principal Chief and Council members are Cherokee citizens by blood. This guarantees Cherokee control of government, but that government is ultimately elected by a larger and more diverse constituency of citizens,” the Allen ruling states.
The ruling deals with a case brought under the 1975 Constitution. The tribe now operates under the 1999 Constitution, which also calls for elected officials to be citizens “by blood.”
During arguments, White’s attorney, Deb Reed, said White’s knowledge and documents provided by the Shawnee Tribe show that White could trace direct lineage to Thomas J. White, who is on the Dawes Roll.
Reed stated the Constitution, the law that both the CN and the EC abide by, states “citizens by blood” in regards to those running for office within the CN. “And Randy White is a citizen by blood,” she said.
However, attorney Curtis Bruehl, representing White’s challenger, Chance Hayes, argued that conflicting roll numbers show that Randy White’s lineage goes back to Thomas White, an adopted Shawnee.
“I think the record reflects very clearly that while Mr. White is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, he is not a citizen by blood to the Cherokee people which disqualifies him of holding the office of Tribal Council,” Bruehl said. “The Cherokee Nation and the election laws are quite clear not only must a candidate be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, they shall be a citizen by blood of Cherokee Nation and that has been decided from our Supreme Court in the Allen case very clearly.”
After an executive session, the EC determined White was not qualified to run for Tribal Council based on his not being Cherokee “by blood.”
“…the candidate Randy Junior White does not meet the qualifications to be a candidate for council Dist. 11 in the 2017 Cherokee Nation General Election,” the EC decision states.
White said he was disappointed but thankful for his representation and the ability to attempt to run.
“Evidently we didn’t come with enough evidence. I thank him (Chance Hayes) for filing the paperwork…it’s an honor for him to do that. But did he do it on his own or did somebody have him do it? I live in Vinita my whole life, and I don’t know the man and I know pert near everyone in town,” White said. “I respect him for filing if he did it on his own. If he didn’t, I don’t have nothing to say about that.”
Hayes deferred comment to his attorney, but Bruehl had not responded as of publication.
The period to appeal any EC rulings to the Supreme Court was slated for Feb. 28 to March 6.
The EC also heard testimony on a challenge to Dist. 9 candidate Anthony Cochran.
CN citizen Dalene Kirk claimed Cochran did not meet the residency requirement of being domiciled within his district for 270 days prior to an election.
According to election law, “the candidate shall have established a bona fide permanent residence in the district for which he or she is a candidate for no less than 270 days immediately preceding the day of the general election in which he or she is seeking election.”
Kirk claimed Cochran’s residence, according to county and state voting records, indicated he lived at an address outside the district. However, Cochran said he had moved to his new residence inside the district and lived in a small travel trailer while building his home.
He testified to staying on the property full time beginning in the summer of 2016, excluding one day a week to spend the night with his wife and children at his other residence. He also stated that moving on site was due to a large amount of theft in the area.
After testimony the EC determined that Cochran was domiciled within Dist. 9 for no less than 270 days.
Cochran said he was glad the commission ruled in his favor.
“I was in the district the allotted time I was needed to be in the district. And as I said before, those challenges come up. You got to face those challenges and meet them head on,” he said.
Kirk and her representative, Suzanne Gilstrap, declined to comment after the hearing.
On Feb. 22, Dist. 4 candidate Bo Highers withdrew his candidacy stating he made a mistake in regards to his residency. “I learned from my attorney that I may not meet the residency requirements for the fourth district council seat as I understood them. When I filed my application I truly believed that I met the residency requirements of the CNCA and rules and regulations as interpreted by me as a layman wishing to serve our Cherokee Nation.”
In addition, CN citizen Angela Collins withdrew her challenge to Sarah Cowett’s At-Large candidacy. Collins had claimed Cowett could not run because she works for the Muscogee Creek Nation.
The tribe’s election law states the “candidate shall not hold any office of honor, profit or trust in any other tribe of Indians, either elective or appointive, if elected to the Cherokee Nation office which he or she is seeking.”
Also, CN citizen Kathy White withdrew her challenge to Shane Jett’s At-Large candidacy claiming he “possessed a disqualifying conflict of interest at the time he filed for office” because he works for the Citizen Potawatomi Tribe.
White’s attorney, Jim Cosby, said the CN Election Code is “ambiguous and needs updated to remove inconsistent sections.”
“In this contest the issues that were contested were questions of law and not of fact that would most likely have to be appealed by one party and heard by the CN Supreme Court,” Cosby, said. “Although worthy claims, it was decided that these are important issues that need to be clarified by ways other than one citizens stepping forward and expending her money.”
Jett said he and his legal team were confident that the challenge was without merit.
Cherokee Nation Constitution: http://www.cherokee.org/Portals/0/Documents/2011/5/30801comparison.pdf