Cherokee Phoenix to host candidates debates

02/26/2019 01:15 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Former Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap, far left, answers a question at the Cherokee Phoenix’s principal chief debate in 2015 at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. On stage with Soap were his opponents, from left to right, former state Rep. Will Fourkiller, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and former Principal Chief Chad Smith. The Cherokee Phoenix will host this year’s debate on April 16 at NSU. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Former Tribal Councilor Lee Keener, right, addresses a question while Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden looks on during the Cherokee Phoenix’s deputy chief debate in 2015 at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. The Cherokee Phoenix will host this year’s debate on April 16 at NSU. ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is hosting two debates – one for deputy chief candidates and one for principal chief candidates – beginning at 6 p.m. on April 16 at Northeastern State University.

The debates will be held in the auditorium of the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center.
Doors will open at 5 p.m., and the deputy chief debate will begin at 6 p.m.

This year there are two candidates running for the Cherokee Nation’s deputy chief office: Meredith Frailey, of Locust Grove; and Bryan Warner, of Sallisaw. The winner will replace Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden.

Linda Sacks, of Muskogee, withdrew from the race on Feb. 21, Election Commission officials said.
After the deputy chief candidates’ debate and a short intermission, the principal chief candidates’ debate will begin at 7:30 p.m. This year’s principal chief’s race is between Chuck Hoskin Jr., of Vinita; Dick Lay, of Ochelata; and David Walkingstick, of Tahlequah. The winner will replace Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

As of publication, the tribe’s Election Commission on Feb. 21 had ruled Rhonda Brown-Fleming, a Cherokee Nation citizen living in California, ineligible to run for principal chief because she does not meet the CN Constitution’s residency requirement. The Constitution states all principal chief and deputy chief candidates must live within the CN jurisdiction.

Also, as of publication, Brown-Fleming had not appealed the EC decision to the CN Supreme Court, court officials said.

Dylan Goforth, editor in chief of The Frontier, a nonprofit journalism group in Oklahoma, will moderate the debates. The Cherokee Phoenix staff will formulate all debate questions, and no candidate will have prior access to the questions.

Seating in the auditorium will be first-come, first-serve. The debate will also be streamed live on the at and Rogers State University TV at

The Cherokee Phoenix has previously hosted three similar debates in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

For Tribal Council candidates, the Cherokee Phoenix will publish a Tribal Council questionnaire in the April 1 issue. Council candidates will get questions via email on March 1. The deadline for completed questionnaires will be 5 p.m. on March 15. To ensure the Cherokee Phoenix has a good email, candidates can email


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