With a slate of narrow races that featured candidates separated by just nine to 20 votes in some cases during a June general election, four Cherokee Nation Tribal Council seats are headed for a runoff Saturday.
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council features 15 physical districts and two at-large seats for voters residing outside of the tribe’s historic reservation boundary, which was recently reaffirmed, in northeast Oklahoma.
The following cheat sheet offers voters a look at the candidates who remain and what each says they will do if elected to the council. Information was gathered from publicly available sources.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council District 2
Background: Tehee spent part of her childhood growing up in Tahlequah before moving to Sallisaw, where she graduated high school in 1995. She later earned a doctorate in linguistic anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. Today, she serves as a professor at Northeastern State University.
Experience: Tehee has worked in different capacities for the Cherokee Nation, including as director of curriculum and instruction at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School. In 2013, she was appointed as the manager of the Cherokee language program, and she later became executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center.
Platform: Among her top priorities are making sure children have access to quality education, strengthening connections between Cherokees and their culture, and focusing on programs that can help heal intergenerational trauma. She also favors improving health and wellness and increasing communication between government and citizens.
Background: Slover lives in Tahlequah and owns Slover Construction.
Experience: A homebuilder and rancher for more than 30 years, this is Slover’s first run at elected office.
Platform: If elected, Slover said on Facebook that his main priorities would be to increase accountability and transparency within the administration and to make sure as many resources as possible are returned to citizens rather than outside interests. He said he would be fully accessible to all tribal citizens and that it’s important to build a tribe that will make future generations proud.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council District 7
Background: Comingdeer lives in Stillwell, and is a father of four with six grandchildren. In 2016, he retired from a 25-year career as a wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Experience: Comingdeer has maintained a long-term interest in stick making, which is the primary piece of equipment used in stickball. Comingdeer also serves as chief of the Echota Ceremonial Ground, which is used for ceremonial dances and other events, and where a ceremonial fire is kept burning.
Platform: If elected, Comingdeer said on Facebook that his top priorities include establishing a comprehensive preventative health initiative, the creation of youth programs, improving eldercare and aggressively promoting sustainable, land-based economic initiatives.
Background: A lifelong Stillwell resident, Sam attended Northeastern State University. Today, he serves as an assistant manager at Carson Community Bank in Stillwell. He is married with three children.
Experience: This is Sam’s first run at tribal office, but he has maintained an active interest in tribal government and policies throughout his adult life. Sam is also active in Kiwanis Club, the Stillwell Chamber of Commerce and the Adair County Boys and Girls Club.
Platform: On Facebook, Sam said trust is the main platform of his campaign. He believes tribal government should exist to meet the needs of its people. If elected, he will work to improve transparency so citizens can trust the programs and businesses that exist to support those needs.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council District 10
Background: Handle-Davis is a lifelong Jay resident and has worked in education throughout her career.
Experience: Handle-Davis has served as a teacher in Jay Public Schools and a community advocate and volunteer. Most recently, she assisted in tornado recovery efforts in 2019 and by making food deliveries to those in need during spring break. She said it was during those visits that she was able to see some of the struggles and financial hardship certain citizens endure.
Platform: Among her top priorities if elected, Handle-Davis said on her website that she would like to see increased funding for education and would like to make sure resources available to citizens can be accessed easily and consistently.
Background: The oldest of nine children, Shotpouch grew up in Eucha and has been a lifelong resident of Delaware County. She worked in the Delaware County Assessor’s Office before retiring.
Experience: Shotpouch has served on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council in the past, most recently in 2007. She has served on multiple boards and has volunteered her time to several organizations.
Platform: Shotpouch said on Facebook that her previous experience on the council — along with the fact she is retired and could focus all of her time on public service — are some of her best assets as a candidate. If elected, she would improve cultural education for citizens, especially children, and work to make sure tribal government is transparent.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council seat at large
Background: A graduate of Enid High School, Haskins is an attorney and a Tulsa resident who grew up in a single-parent home. Haskins said his mother, who was a substitute teacher, also taught her children Cherokee culture.
Experience: On his Facebook page, Haskins lists his “present contract work” as including service as a justice for the Supreme Court of the Pawnee Nation, a justice for the Supreme Court of the Kickapoo Tribe, a justice for the Supreme Court of the Seminole Nation and magistrate appeals officer for Miami Agency Court of Indian Offense within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His page lists a series of other positions he has held within tribal governments.
Platform: If elected, Haskins said on Facebook that his top priority would be to serve underrepresented and underserved citizens of the tribe. He also would make sure the Cherokee Nation’s constitution is followed and that its government maintains transparency.
Johnny Jack Kidwell
Background: Kidwell was born in Claremore and grew up in Spavinaw. He currently lives in Tulsa with his wife and two children. Kidwell holds two masters degrees, one in business and the other in education from San Diego State and Southern Nazarene University, respectively.
Experience: He served in the U.S. Coast Guard, retiring as a lieutenant commander. Kidwell earned the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal during his Coast Guard career.
Platform: If elected, Kidwell wrote on his website that his top priorities would be improving eldercare, mental health care and communication between the tribe and its citizens. He also seeks to expand educational opportunities and preserve tribal culture and history.