TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The campaign manager for a candidate for principal chief of the Cherokee Nation says he has been disqualified from the general election.
David Walkingstick on Friday was removed from the ballot for the June 1 General Election after a 4-0 vote by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, Luke Harshaw said. That body is made up of two citizens voted into office by the Tribal Council and two who are appointed by the Chief.
There is a five-day appeal window, and the commission has three days to hold a hearing, Harshaw said.
When asked if they would appeal, Harshaw said, “We are looking at options. We will make sure that the election is held and that the people’s voices aren’t taken away. People have already voted [early].”
Walkingstick has been accused of having a conflict of interest because of an alleged connection to a PAC called Cherokees for Change.
The campaign gave the following statement to 2 Works For You:
"Although we are proud Cherokee citizens, we are also United States citizens with a guaranteed right to free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Cherokee Nation Election Commission's ruling to remove David Walkingstick shows either a total disregard or misunderstanding of what our First Amendment protects.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that U.S. citizens cannot be denied the right to raise and spend money to influence an election for a candidate. The Election Commission's disqualification of Walkingstick from the Principal Chief election is in direct conflict with this ruling that remains the law of the land. The Walkingstick campaign did not coordinate with or accept contributions from Cherokees for Change LLC, and the Election Commission has no legal right to remove a candidate from the ballot as the result of another United States citizen exercising their First Amendment right to free speech."
Cherokee Nation spokesperson Julie Hubbard responded by saying, "The Cherokee Nation Election Commission is an independent body of the tribe. Their job is to impartially weigh the facts and ensure that Cherokee Nation Election Laws are upheld, and that’s what they did today."
The DQ now leaves two candidates in the race, Chuck Hoskin Jr., Dick Lay. The current chief cannot seek a third term, the tribal Supreme Court has ruled.
Hoskin Jr. Lay and Walkingstick participated in a public forum on Thursday night. You can watch that video here.
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