All three incumbent members up for reelection to the Muscogee National Council on Saturday were voted out of office, according to unofficial results.
Reps. Travis Scott, James Jennings and Lucian Tiger III had all served multiple terms on the Council. With voters also selecting challenger Galen Cloud over Adam Jones III in September, Saturday’s results mean that four of the eight representatives up for reelection this year were defeated by voters.
The Muscogee Nation’s general election was originally set to be held on Nov. 6, but after more than 1,000 absentee ballots were not received by the Okmulgee Post Office before the 11 a.m. deadline in the Sept. 18 primary election, the general election was pushed back one week to give ample time for mail-in voters. (For the November election, absentee voters were sent prepaid U.S. Postal Service priority express mail envelopes in which to return their ballots.)
Muscogee National Council representatives are elected to four-year terms, with all registered voters eligible to cast ballots in each district. Pending any challenges, the election results are scheduled to be certified Friday at 5 p.m. by the Muscogee Nation Election Board, according Election Board Manager Nelson Harjo Jr. (the son of the newly elected representative for Okmulgee District B). The new Council representatives would then be sworn in during the first session of 2022.
Golden regains seat by defeating Scott
In the Okfuskee District, former councilmember Sandra Golden earned 2,093 votes (58.5 percent), while incumbent Rep. Travis Scott — who sought his fourth term on the Council — finished with 1,483 votes. Golden previously served on the National Council from the Okfuskee District. She was elected in 2001 and served until 2005.
In a Facebook post by Golden, she thanked her supporters for their votes.
“MVTO citizens! It’s late but I had to [say] thanks to everyone I am unofficially a winner!” Golden wrote. “Could not have done this without you and God — keeping my feet on the ground. I am truly blessed. When the dust settles, the work begins and I’m ready!”
Over the summer, Scott faced accusations of illegal transactions regarding more than $107,500 spent at his hardware store by Muscogee Nation business entities. Scott was removed from the Council but later reinstated to his position via a tribal court ruling.
Harjo thanks Jennings for a ‘clean race’
In the Okmulgee District, challenger Nelson Harjo Sr.‘s 1,970 votes (55 percent) topped incumbent Rep. James Jennings’ 1,613 votes.
Harjo is a longtime Muscogee Nation employee, and he previously served as chief of the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, a tribe historically connected to the Muscogee Nation with separate executive and legislative branches but judicial jurisdiction under the Muscogee Nation. Some Alabama-Quassarte members hold dual citizenship.
Harjo posted a video on Facebook following the release of the unofficial results, thanking his supporters for their votes.
“Well, I want to thank everyone for voting for me in the last few days. I know, it seems like this has been quite a long journey getting to where we’re at right now, and I know the results at this point are considered the unofficial results. Hopefully, we can get past the next five days where everything’s declared official,” Harjo said. “But I want to thank all those who cast their votes for me, shared my posts, who reached out to me and expressed their support and prayers and everything that you could have done.”
Harjo also congratulated Sandra Golden and Leonard Gouge for winning their respective seats, and he thanked his opponent, James Jennings, for running a “clean race.”
“I want to congratulate Mr. Gouge, and Ms. Golden for winning their seats. You know, unfortunately, when you run races like this, it’s always someone who wins and, unfortunately, there’s someone who always loses,” Harjo said. “But I tell you, Mr. Jennings gave me a good race. That’s why we ended up in a runoff. And again, he gave me a phone call earlier, and I appreciate that. I just want to thank him for, you know, making this an easy, clean race.”
Gouge pokes Tiger
Gouge is a retired 28-year Army veteran with multiple foreign deployments. According to his Facebook page, he has worked for 31 years in tribal child welfare.
Following the results, Gouge posted a video on Facebook, saying he looks forward to making “changes” in Muscogee government.
“Hello, everyone, we just got the results. It’s unofficial, but it looks like we won. I look forward to working on the Council and making changes, along with other new people on the Council now,” Gouge said. “So I appreciate everybody supporting me. And if you didn’t vote for me, we’re still gonna work together to make changes. Mvto everybody, mvto.”
The 2021 election cycle was the Muscogee Nation’s first since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the existence of the tribe’s historic reservation in eastern Oklahoma.