5 candidates face eligibility challenges

02/15/2019 08:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Four Cherokee Nation citizens have challenged the eligibility of two principal chief, one deputy chief and two tribal council candidates, prompting the Election Commission to set hearings for Feb. 21.

The challenged principal chief candidates are former Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Freedman descendant Rhonda Brown-Fleming. Hoskin’s running mate for deputy chief, Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner, was also challenged. Brown-Fleming was the only candidate to garner challenges from two CN citizens, said Elections Director Connie Parnell.

“They filed together,” she added.

The other challenged June 1 election hopefuls are Dist. 3 candidate Debra Proctor and Dist. 13 Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen.

CN citizen Robin Mayes filed three of the challenges. In his challenges he states he has “information and belief” that Hoskin, Warner and Proctor “illegally accepted in-kind contributions and pledges for support” prior to Dec. 1, thus “should be removed” from their respective races for violating election law.

Section 44 of the tribal election code states no candidate “shall receive campaign contributions prior to the beginning of the six month period immediately preceding” an election. All three of Mayes’ challenges allege that attorney Kalyn Free “orchestrated a financial campaign to raise funds” for Hoskin, Warner and Proctor before Dec. 1, and that Free’s work “was an illegal in-kind contribution.”

Hoskin said the challenges are “without merit.”

“I am fully confident that the challenges will be promptly dismissed,” he stated in an email. “Councilman Warner and I will not be distracted from our campaign to move Cherokee Nation forward. We will stay 100 percent focused on that important work and we will win June 1st.”

The two challengers disputing Brown-Fleming’s eligibility, Marcus Thompson and Twila Pennington, claim the candidate does not meet residency requirements. Special qualifications for the chief and deputy chief positions state that candidates must live within the CN jurisdictional boundary for at least 270 days prior to the election.

The challengers state that as a resident of California, Brown-Fleming “does not meet the requirements of our Cherokee Constitution” to run for principal chief. If it is determined that residency requirement is met, Thompson is asking the EC to “determine whether or not Ms. Fleming meets the blood requirement for office.”

According to the CN Constitution, candidates must be “a citizen by blood of the Cherokee Nation.” However, according to a 2017 CN Supreme Court order, Freedmen have “all the rights and duties of any other native Cherokee, including the right to run for office.”

Brown-Fleming declined to comment on the challenges.

Anglen’s eligibility was challenged by his opponent, Joe Deere. Anglen is the current Dist. 13 and former Dist. 8 legislator. Deere claims that Anglen is ineligible to run this year based on term limits set forth in the CN Constitution.

“Anglen has served two full terms under the 1999 Constitution, having been elected in the 2007 general election and the 2015 general election,” Deere’s challenge states.

According to the Tribal Council website, Anglen was appointed to fill a Dist. 8 vacancy in 2002. He was elected to the seat a year later. In 2007, he won re-election and served until 2013 when he lost his seat due to redistricting. Because of the Tribal Council establishing staggered terms, Anglen and several other legislators served six-year terms. In 2015, Anglen was elected as the Dist. 13 representative.

The challenge window ended at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14. The EC met shortly after and deemed the remaining 31 candidates eligible to run for office.

A hearing for the challenges was set for 1 p.m. on Feb. 21. According to EC attorney Harvey Chaffin, an executive session for deliberation will follow each candidate hearing.

“We have until the 25th to certify the contests,” Parnell said. “But we’re going to do it on the 21st, and it should be done that day.”

Once the commission renders its decisions, challengers have five days to file appeals with the CN Supreme Court.
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