Wilma Mankiller Leads In Cherokee Tribal Election
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ Voters in the Cherokee Nation appeared to be on the way to electing a woman, Wilma Mankiller, as principal chief for the first time according to incomplete unofficial election results late Saturday night.
With 29 of 34 precincts counted, Ms. Mankiller received 2,660 votes, followed by Perry Wheeler with 1,982 votes, David Whitekiller with 993 votes and Bill McKee with 786 votes.
More than 62,900 registered adult Cherokees were eligible to vote, according to tribal election committee records. The Cherokees have increased the number of polling places from 14 to 34 in the 14 counties comprising the Cherokee Nation and are using voting machines for the first time.
Ms. Mankiller, who has been hospitalized in Tulsa for treatment of a kidney ailment, became the first woman principal chief of a major Indian tribe when she was appointed in 1985. She filled the vacancy created by Ross Swimmer’s appointment as head of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Wheeler is the director of Sallisaw funeral home, Whitekiller a postal employee and member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, and McKee deputy administrator at W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital.
In the race for deputy chief, incumbent John Ketcher led with 2,645 votes, followed by Barbara Starr-Scott with 2,160 votes, Don Crittenden with 1,040 votes, and Joe Todd with 526 votes.
Ketcher of Tahlequah was elected in 1983. Crittenden is a tribal council member and Cherokee County superintendent of schools. Ms. Starr-Scott is a tribal council member and former Indian Health Service employee who is president of Sequoyah Industries. Todd is president and chief executive officer of Environmental Protection, Inspection and Consulting Inc.
There are also 50 candidates for 15 seats on the tribal council, a legislative body.
Election as chief or deputy chief requires a majority of the vote. If a runoff is necessary, it will be held July 18.