The Chickasaw Nation general election is set for Tuesday, July 25, and three candidates are running for the Tishomingo District’s third seat on the Tribal Legislature. Eight-time incumbent Tribal Legislator Steven Woods is being challenged by former Chickasaw Lighthorse police officer Dusk Monetathchi and Shane Langford, a substitute teacher and private coach.
The offices of governor and lieutenant governor, four Tribal Legislature seats and one Supreme Court position were scheduled for election this year, but only Tishomingo District Seat 3 drew challengers.
As a result, Gov. Bill Anoatubby and his son, Lt. Gov. Chris Anoatubby, were reelected by default to four-year terms. First elected as governor in 1987, Bill Anoatubby, 77, is set to be sworn into his 10th consecutive gubernatorial term in October. Chris Anoatubby, 50, was elected to his first term as lieutenant governor in 2019.
Before becoming governor, Bill Anoatubby served two terms as the Chickasaw Nation’s first lieutenant governor under former Chickasaw Gov. Overton James. Unlike some other tribes, the Chickasaw Nation does not employ term limits, and elected officials may serve an unlimited number of consecutive terms.
Also running unopposed, Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Bellefuille-Gordon, Pickens District Seat 2 legislator Connie Barker and Pontotoc District legislators J. Lisa Impson (Seat 3) and Karen Goodnight (Seat 4) will retain their positions. Legislators and Supreme Court judges serve three-year terms.
The Chickasaw Nation is headquartered in Ada, and its jurisdiction spans 7,648 square miles across 13 counties in southern Oklahoma. The Chickasaw reservation was functionally affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its McGirt v. Oklahoma decision in July 2020.
Chickasaw elections are conducted only through absentee ballots. Ballots must be received to the Chickasaw Nation Election Commission’s U.S. Post Office box no later than 10:30 a.m. on the last Tuesday in July. No hand-delivered ballots are accepted. If no single candidate receives more than 50 percent support, a runoff election is scheduled for Aug. 29.
The following overview of the Chickasaw Nation general election’s Tishomingo District 3 race is drawn primarily from news reports, government documents and campaign websites.
Only Shane Langford responded to interview requests for this article.
Steven Woods (incumbent)
Profession: Woods is one of three legislators representing the Tishomingo District in the Tribal Legislature. He retired as a senior radiation safety officer with Halliburton Energy Services in 2018.
Experience: Prior to his election to the Tribal Legislature in 2002, Woods served as a Chickasaw Supreme Court justice for 10 years. He has been a member of Chickasaw Nation Industries’ board of directors since 2004. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Oklahoma.
Platform: In a Facebook post, Woods wrote it has been his “great pleasure and privilege” to serve the Chickasaw citizens of the Tishomingo District.
“The Chickasaw Nation is the most progressive, successful and citizen-focused tribe in the country,” he wrote. “I promise to be open-minded and fair as I represent all the voters of the Tishomingo District. Over the course of my terms serving you, I have worked hard to bring business, tourism, employment and new opportunities to Tishomingo District. The scope of these important projects is unprecedented in all Chickasaw Nation history. Education, health care, elder care, housing, veterans, transportation and cultural enrichment programs have all received my support.”
Woods assured citizens he could be relied upon and asked for their continued support.
“Whether you live in Tishomingo District or elsewhere in the country, you can count on me to work on your behalf,” he wrote. “Together we have achieved great things. With your vote, we will keep the momentum moving forward.”
Profession: Langford is a substitute teacher and private coach.
Experience: Langford graduated from East Central University with a bachelor’s degree in history education in 2009, and he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership. This is his first time to seek public office.
Platform: In a statement to the Chickasaw Times, he wrote he is running to ensure that Chickasaw citizens are “never ignored or neglected again.”
“I will continue to work for all Chickasaws regardless of their blood quantity,” he wrote. “My goal is to enhance the overall quality of life for all Chickasaws, not just a few Chickasaws.”
In an interview, Langford expressed frustration with the Tribal Legislature and Gov. Bill Anoatubby’s administration. His biggest grievances stem from high elected official pay and the five-minute limit limit for Chickasaw citizens who want to speak during the “new business” portions of Tribal Legislature meetings. Citizens “sponsored” by a tribal legislator may speak for up to 15 minutes, according to Les Wesberry Jr., attorney for the Chickasaw Tribal Legislature.
“You just cannot get through to these legislators because you’ve got to request a sponsorship to speak to your legislator, and I find that insulting. I find it despicable,” he said. “This is not a win-lose campaign. I’m running until these changes come about or at least until [elected officials] talk to us.”
Langford said “an injustice to one is an injustice to all,” emphasizing that he has always wanted to give back to the tribe.
“When you see a wrong, you’ve got to right it,” he said. “We’re a small government compared to the state, but what we do as a small government can create waves. We can lead the way.”
Profession: Monetathchi is an Oklahoma state park ranger and a pastor at the Little Praying Church in Southern Johnston County in Fillmore.
Experience: Monetathchi was the first officer to join the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department when it was founded in 2004. He began his law enforcement career as a reserve Johnston County Sheriff’s Office deputy before joining the Kingston Police Department. This is his first time to run for public office.
Platform: In a statement to the Chickasaw Times, he wrote that he is proud to be a Chickasaw citizen, and he described his commitment to advocating on citizens’ behalf.
“I am Chickasaw strong and very proud of my Chickasaw heritage,” he wrote. “If elected, I will commit to strengthening communication between the Chickasaw people and the tribal government. I will lobby to protect natural resources and conservation of native lands. With a law enforcement background, I will continue to push for strengthening the Chickasaw Nation judicial system. I will voice my support for educational and home ownership opportunities for all Chickasaw citizens within our boundaries and those living outside the reservation.”