For the second time in four years, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s incumbent chief has been defeated by a challenger. On Saturday, Assistant Chief Lewis Johnson received nearly 60 percent of the vote in a three-way race, ousting Chief Greg Chilcoat, who had defeated an incumbent himself in 2017.
Six of the 10 incumbent members of the Seminole Nation’s General Council who faced competition Saturday also lost their re-election bids.
Johnson, the tribe’s assistant chief since 2013, finished with 1,019 votes (59.5 percent), while Chilcoat received 387 votes (22.6 percent) and two-term General Council representative Sena Yesslith received 306 votes (17.9 percent). Saturday’s results were certified by the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma Election Board today, according to Bo Whitekiller, the tribe’s communications director.
“The Seminole people have elected me the next chief of the Seminole Nation,” Johnson wrote in a Facebook post. “I am so grateful for the overwhelming support from friends, family and our Seminole members, I do covet your prayers for the wisdom as to lead such a great people.”
Lewis Johnson ran on ‘established experience’
In challenging Chilcoat, Johnson’s platform largely focused on his time in tribal government. His campaign slogan, “Established experience does matter,” highlighted his nearly 30 years involved in tribal government.
Johnson won handily at each of the tribe’s five polling locations, and he topped absentee ballot totals as well. In the end, Chilcoat received re-election support from fewer than one in four voters only four years after he had defeated two-term incumbent Leonard M. Harjo in a 2017 runoff.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the Seminole Nation in my capacity for the past four years, and I wish nothing but the best for the Seminole Nation as they move forward,” Chilcoat said in a statement to NonDoc on Sunday.
Chilcoat had received criticism leading up to Election Day from Johnson and members of the tribe’s General Council for not holding a “special call meeting” despite the existence of a petition signed by 17 councilmembers asking Chilcoat to do so. Councilmembers signed the petition for the meeting in hopes of discussing American Rescue Plan funding, among other topics.
On June 25, Ann Borba — who ousted an incumbent councilmember of the Hvteyicvlke (Newcomer) Band on Saturday — posted a blurry cell phone video of a General Council altercation involving law enforcement, which she described as “a general council member, elected by his band when he tried to get (Greg) Chilcoat removed as chief.” Borba had posted endorsements of Johnson for chief.
Prior to being elected assistant chief in 2013, Johnson served served two terms on the General Council and as band chief of the Tallahassee Band. Johnson has served as chairman of the Constitution Revision Committee, chairman of the Tribal Law Codification Committee, co-chairman of the Arts and Culture Committee, commissioner of the Housing Authority of the Seminole Nation and a member of the Administration Appeals Board, according to his Facebook page.
The National Museum of the American Indian conducted a Q&A with Lewis Johnson after he was elected assistant chief in 2013. C-SPAN also broadcast Johnson’s tour of the Seminole Nation museum in Wewoka, where he told stories about the tribe’s history.
Headquartered in Wewoka, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s jurisdiction encompasses Seminole County. The tribe’s historic reservation was affirmed by an Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision earlier this year following the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
Palmer, Wood head to runoff for assistant chief
In the seven-candidate race for assistant chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Brian Thomas Palmer and Anthony “Buddy” Wood were the top two vote recipients, with 372 votes (21.8 percent) and 338 votes (19.8 percent), respectively. Since neither candidate received a majority of the 1,708 votes cast, a runoff election between Palmer and Wood will take place Saturday, Aug. 7.
The five other candidates that competed in the assistant chief race were Thomas Yahola Jr. (317 votes), Jasha Rhiannon Lyons Echo-Hawk (215 votes), William Randolph Northcott (173 votes), Joe Coon (155 votes) and Jeffery Dean Harjo (138 votes).
Eight of the tribe’s 14 bands held competitive elections for their General Council seats Saturday. After results were certified, six incumbent councilpersons had been defeated by voters across five bands. (The council features 28 total members, two from each band.)
Incumbents retain seats for Dosar Barkus Band
Incumbents Anastasia Pittman and Terry Loy Edwards received 81 votes and 60 votes, respectively, holding onto their council seats in the Dosar Barkus Band. The band is one of two composed of descendants of the tribe’s freed slaves.
Two other candidates competed in the race: Sylvia Davis (17 votes) and Patrick Thomas (13 votes).
Gonzales, Fixico win Eufaula in tight race
Ida Gonzales and Nancy Fixico won the General Council seats for the Eufaula Band with 54 and 53 votes respectively.
Three other candidates competed in the race: Nakina Maria Didonna (45 votes), Chaparne Harjo (38 votes) and Manuel Harjo (22 votes).
Downey, Petete top Fushutche incumbent
Tamara Downey and Emet Petete received 37 votes and 31 votes respectively, winning the General Council seats for the Fushutche Band.
There were two other candidates in the race. David Narcomey (22 votes) finished third, and incumbent Timothy Hooper finished last with 13 votes.
Harjo, Billie beat two Hecete incumbents
Delois Harjo and Joseph Billie received 43 and 37 votes, respectively, to win the General Council seats of the Hecete Band.
Three other candidates competed in the race: Meske Davis (35 votes) and incumbents Anita Lena (34 votes) and Patricia Kishketon (33 votes).
Borba finishes ahead of incumbents in Hvteyicvlke Band
Anna Borba (62 votes) and incumbent Karen Fullbright (60 votes) won the General Council seats in the Hvteyicvlke Band, beating Dena Tiger Kloehr (49 votes). Kloehr was also an incumbent councilmember.
Coody and Scraper win Nurcup Harjo seats
Incumbent Lottie Coody and challenger Andrea Scraper won the General Council seats in the Nurcup Harjo band with 31 and 28 votes, respectively.
The other two candidates in the race were Christine McKinney (27 votes) and incumbent Marilyn Moore (26 votes).
Former councilmember tops Tom Palmer Band
The other candidates in the race were Misty Powell (75 votes) and Letha Wise (66 votes).
Emerton, Deatherage win Tusekia Harjo Band
Willis Deatherage, chairman of the Seminole Nation Gaming Agency and Desiray Emerton — a U.S. Air Force veteran — won the General Council seats for the Tusekia Harjo Band with 160 votes and 138 votes, respectively. The pair beat incumbent Regina Lankford, who received 104 votes.
Some General Council seats to be determined
The following six bands of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma have either selected their representatives by default or will nominate at least one representative at a later date because only one or no candidate filed for the council:
- Caesar Bruner Band
- Ceyvha Band
- Mekusukey Band
- Ocese Band
- Rewalke Band
- Tallahassee Band
Caesar Bruner Band
Incumbents Anthony Vernell Conley and Le-Etta Osborne-Sampson will retain their seats as the only two candidates who filed.
The Ceyvha Band will nominate their General Council representatives from within the band, as no candidates filed.
Stephany Ann Lambert was the only candidate to file for the Mekusukey Band, so she won her seat.
Former Mekusukey Band Chief, Sena Yesslith, could retain her vacated Mekusukey General Council seat after finishing third in the chief race.
Chatee Watkins and Ella Mae Colman won their seats as the only two candidates to file for the Ocese Band.
The Rewalke Band will nominate their General Council representatives from within, as no candidates filed.
Father and daughter incumbents Charlie Hill and Kathrine Marie McCoy retained their seats in the Tallahassee Band, as they were the only two candidates who filed.