Crowded field in Tribal Council races as filing period ends

A total of 38 political hopefuls file to run in the Cherokee Nation's June 5 general election. Nine Tribal Council seats are open in 2021. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

TAHLEQUAH -- A total of 38 Cherokee Nation citizens declared their candidacies to run for nine seats on the Tribal Council in the June 5 general election.

"There will be a race in every district because we have at least two in every district," Election Commission Chairwoman Shawna Calico said. "There are eight running for At-Large."

The four-day filing window ended Feb. 4 for open seats in Tribal Council districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15 and one At-Large. The EC has until Feb. 22 to certify those who filed as official candidates.

"We have five business days for anyone to file a protest," Calico said. "That's until the 11th for anybody to contest the eligibility. Then we have until the 18th for anybody to withdraw."

In Dist. 2, longtime Councilor Joe Byrd is terming out of office. His district in Cherokee County attracted seven candidates: Vicki Creel, Dusty Fore, Jami Murphy, Bobby Slover, Tonya Teaney and Candessa Tehee, all of Tahlequah, and Claude Stover, of Oaks.

Dist. 4 incumbent Tribal Councilor Mike Dobbins, of Fort Gibson, filed along with Sarah Cowett, of Porum. The district includes portions of Muskogee and McIntosh counties.

Current Dist. 5 Tribal Councilor E.O. Smith, of Vian, filed along with Richard W. Tyler and RL Bell, of Braggs. His district represents portions of Sequoyah and Muskogee counties.

In Dist. 7, which covers the western side of Adair County including Stilwell, incumbent Canaan Duncan did not file for re-election, paving the way for hopefuls David Comingdeer, of Spade Mountain; Gena Kirk, of Stilwell; and Joshua Sam, also of Stilwell. Duncan was elected in an early 2019 special election to fill the unexpired term of Frankie Hargis, who was appointed as the CN's registrar.

Dist. 9 Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh filed for re-election, along with Joyce McCarter and Lawrence Panther, of Kansas, Oklahoma. The district covers portions of Delaware and Mayes counties.

In Dist. 10, incumbent Harley Buzzard is terming out. Filing for his spot in Ottawa County and portions of Mayes and Delaware counties were Dennis Ackley, of Salina; Shaunda Handle-Davis; Darrel Hicks, of Eucha; Melvina Shotpouch, of Eucha; John Ann Masters Thompson, of Grove; and Cody Williams, of Miami, Oklahoma.

Current Dist. 11 Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, of Vinita, filed along with Mason Hudson, of Adair; Mike Purcell; and Randy Junior White, of Vinita. Her district includes Craig County and portions of Nowata and Mayes counties.

Also terming out is Janees Taylor, who represents Dist. 15, which covers portions of Rogers and Mayes counties. Those who filed for that seat are Danny Callison, of Pryor, and former Tribal Councilor Meredith Frailey, of Locust Grove.

The open At-Large seat attracted eight candidates. They are Wallace Ryan Craig; Mary-Charlotte Grayson; Kyle Haskins, of Tulsa; Shawna Johnson; Johnny Jack Kidwell, of Tulsa; Robin Mayes, of Texas; Matthew B. Scraper, of Oklahoma City; and Marilyn Vann. The At-Large incumbent, Mary Baker Shaw, announced on Jan. 29 that she would not seek re-election.

The Cherokee Phoenix plans to publish its Election Guide on April 1, followed by candidate Q&As in the April 15 edition.

The general election is scheduled for June 5. If needed, a runoff election will be held July 24.

For election information, visit, call 918-458-5899 or 1-800-353-2895, fax 918-458-6101 or email