Election Commission tosses 2 challenged candidates
Dist. 13 Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen listens Feb. 21 to a decision by the Election Commission regarding his candidacy in the upcoming general election. Anglen was disqualified based on term limits. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Attorney Carly Griffith Hotvedt argues against Dist. 13 Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen’s eligibility to run for office on behalf of her client, Joe Deere, also a Dist. 13 candidate, on Feb. 21 at the Election Commission Office. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH — The Election Commission on Feb. 21 disqualified a tribal councilor and principal chief candidate from running in the June 1 general election.
The EC handed down the decisions following six hours of hearings inside its office. Commissioners were tasked with determining the eligibility of five candidates who were challenged by CN citizens.
Buel Anglen, the Dist. 13 representative, was disqualified from running following a term-limit challenge from his lone opponent, Joe Deere.
Anglen’s lengthy role as a councilor was impacted over the years by redistricting and the implementation of staggered terms. Anglen’s initial stint on the council began in 2002, when he was appointed to fill a Dist. 8 vacancy left in the wake of Councilor Dorothy Jean McIntosh’s death. Anglen was elected to the seat in 2003, serving a full term.
“Term limits wasn’t in effect back then,” Anglen said during the Feb. 21 hearing.
In 2007, Anglen was elected again, but the typical four-year term was extended to six during a time of redistricting, according to attorneys involved.
“Some us had to be pushed out two more years so we wouldn’t stagger all of us at the same time,” Anglen said.
After losing his Dist. 8 seat due to redistricting in 2013, Anglen sat out two years before winning the Dist. 13 seat in 2015.
Deere’s attorney, Carly Griffith Hotvedt, said Anglen did not sit out the required four years between terms.
“That two-year gap is not a full term,” she said. “While the facts are slightly convoluted considering the change of the district, the redistricting and the terms of service, it’s clear here Mr. Anglen has not sat out four years as Constitutionally required. He should be required to sit out four years before he’s eligible to be a candidate again.”
Attorney Deborah Reed said Anglen did not serve two consecutive terms and “should be allowed to run.”
“The facts are Buel Anglen has run for Tribal Council Dist. 13 only one time after he sat out for two years,” she said. “This is his second time running for this Tribal Council seat.”
She attributed Anglen’s situation to “the conversion to staggered terms” and mandatory redistricting.
“We will concede that that facts are unusual in this case,” Reed said. “But, he doesn’t meet the definition of having served two consecutive terms … since there were term limits implemented, which I believe started in 2007.”
Commissioners deliberated behind closed doors twice before disqualifying Anglen.Thompson and Pennington vs. Brown-Fleming
Principal chief candidate Rhonda Brown-Fleming, a Cherokee Freedmen descendant, was disqualified from running based on residency requirements.
Challengers Marcus Thompson and Twila Pennington said Brown-Fleming resides in California and outside of the tribe’s jurisdictional boundaries.
“It’s hard to lead a nation when you’re over in California,” Pennington said.
According to the CN Constitution, principal chief and deputy chief candidates must live within the CN jurisdiction for at least 270 days prior to the general election.
Brown was not represented in person, but documents were presented on her behalf, EC officials said.
The race to replace outgoing Principal Chief Bill John Baker now consists of Dist. 3 Councilor David Walkingstick, Dist. 12 Councilor Dick Lay and former Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., who was also challenged.Mayes vs. Hoskin, Warner, Proctor
The three challenged candidates deemed eligible to run were Hoskin, his deputy chief running mate Bryan Warner and Dist. 3 council candidate Debra Proctor.
Challenger Robin Mayes argued the candidates accepted contributions via a professional campaign manager “way before” they were legally allowed to under CN election law.
“These candidates that I have named, I’m sure, haven’t claimed that,” he said. “I’m saying that these candidates should have claimed that as an in-kind contribution on their reports. So there’s two issues there. They failed to report it and they received it before Dec. 1.”
Section 44 of the 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.
Attorney Doug Dodd represented Hoskin and Warner, the current Dist. 6 councilor. Dodd claimed his clients meet the general eligibility requirements under CN law.
“His entire challenge is based on something that has nothing to do with eligibility of candidates,” Dodd said. “If he wants to complain about something having to do with fundraising or in-kind contributions or whatever it is he’s talking about, there may be a process for that. But this is not it.”
According to CN election law, a candidate must be CN citizen; have not been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a felony; not hold office in other tribes if elected; not have outstanding fines imposed by the EC during a previous election; and not be a CN employee.
Dodd described Mayes’ challenges as “a big cloud of dust against” the candidates. Proctor’s attorney, Michael Parks, called Mayes’ claims “speculation, innuendo and rumor.”
Of his challenges, Mayes said, “This is not a personal thing. I’m not going to say it’s not political, but it’s important these kinds of questions need to be addressed.”
At one point Mayes told commissioners, “The only thing left for me, if you rule against me, is to appeal.”
The losing parties of the challenges had five business days to appeal to the CN Supreme Court. No appeals had been filed as of early Feb. 22.Candidate Withdrawals
Two candidates dropped out of the general election before the Feb. 21 withdrawal deadline.
Deputy chief candidate Linda Sacks and Dist. 1 hopeful Randy Dirteater are no longer in the running, EC officials said.
Sacks’ departure leaves two deputy chief candidates in Warner and Meredith Fraley. The winner will replace S. Joe Crittenden.
On his Facebook page, Dirteater stated that his reasons for dropping out were personal “and for the benefit of my family.”
The remaining two candidates in the Dist. 1 contest are incumbent Rex Jordan and Ryan Sierra.
Based on the withdrawals and disqualifications, a total of 32 election candidates remain.