Tidwell wins Cooweescoowee District Run-off
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Election Board has declared Jeannie Tidwell the winner of the Dec. 3 Cooweescoowee District midterm run-off election.
Tidwell received 27 votes and 55.1 percent of the vote, while incumbent Clifford Wofford had 22 votes for 44.9 percent of the vote.
The results were officially certified Dec. 5.
The forced run-off was a result of the Nov. 5 midterm elections in which neither candidate had captured the 50 percent of the vote required to be declared the winner.
“I’m just elated. I am so happy. I am so happy that people voted to make this change,” said Tidwell. “I just want to really, really thank all of the voters for going out and exercising their voting rights. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. I’m going to try and do my best to help everybody that I can.”
Tidwell was originally found ineligible to run by the UKB Election Board on Sept. 11, which determined that she was enrolled with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and therefore “not an exclusive UKB member.”
Tidwell argued that she was unknowingly enrolled by CNO after seeking out a duplicate Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card in 2012.
The burden of proof was placed on the UKB Election Board and not met, according to District Judge Dewayne Littlejohn. He found Tidwell eligible following a Oct. 19 ruling.
“I went to get me a duplicate card and they make it seem like I’m hiding something. I’m not doing anything on purpose. I didn’t relinquish from Keetoowah and I never enrolled at Cherokee Nation,” said Tidwell, who is now looking to specifically address election reform during her time in office.
“I think that we need to get some policies and standards put down so we don’t go back and forth on dual or not dual (enrolled) with Cherokee Nation,” said Tidwell. “We need to actually give people the opportunity to know if Cherokee Nation has put them on their registry.”
Tidwell said she is also focused on improving the “community mentality” within her district.
“I want to pull everybody back together. I want each member to know that they’re important. I want to be able to reach out and help people,” she said. “If people say that they’re having issues here and there, I want to be able to go out and drive there. If I’ve got to take them to do things, that’s fine, I just want everyone to come together. I want them to know that they can trust me to make the right decisions for everybody.”
To reach voters, Tidwell said she utilized social media, mail and in-person visits.
“I had my Cooweescoowee Facebook page. They could see what was going on with me, where I was going and what I was doing. I also did tons of mail-outs and just trying to get out to people and knocking on their doors and trying to find out where they were," she said. "This district is going to take a long time for them to actually have trust in me because it’s been so long since they’ve had anyone representing them. I had to really do some talking to people.”
In addition to thanking voters for helping her run a successful campaign, Tidwell also recognized several others.
“My sister Jo Ann was actually the one beating the pavement with me every opportunity we got to get together,” she said. “I also got encouragement from everybody, regardless of whether anybody helped me campaign. A lot of it is just encouragement from current people and some of the new (council) elects. They were very encouraging. The new ones kind of have the mentality of ‘c’mon, let’s do this. Let’s start working.’”
Pending an official certification, Tidwell will be sworn into office during the regular monthly tribal council meeting to be held the first Saturday of January 2019.