Tribal Government & News

Candidates Forum attracts more than 30 people to listen to eight council hopefuls

07.31.2018 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Elections

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By Dean Rhodes

More than 30 Tribal members and their spouses attended the official Tribal Council Candidates Forum held Wednesday, July 25, in the Community Center and heard all eight council hopefuls state why they should receive a vote in the Sept. 8 election.

Incumbents Cheryle A. Kennedy, Jon A. George and Brenda Tuomi were joined by challengers Steve Bobb Sr., Victor Cureton, Jonathan R. George, Kristina Helfrich and Brent Merrill at a long table where they sat in alphabetical order.

After attendees dined on a meal of chicken, steak, pasta salad and grilled peppers, Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez briefed the candidates on the rules.

Four candidate names would be drawn and they would have two minutes each to answer a question submitted from the audience. Then another question would be drawn and the other four candidates would answer that question. Questions were drawn randomly from a coffee can.

Each candidate opened with a three-minute introductory speech before questions were asked.

The nine questions posed to the candidates included concerns about how to clean up the drug problem in Tribal housing, should Tribal Council or the membership set guidelines for membership, how to interpret the Tribal Constitution, should the membership have more say in how the endowments are managed and should Tribal Council members abstain from using drugs, tobacco and alcohol while representing the Tribe.

Hernandez moderated the event while Tribal Council Administrative Assistant Shannon Simi served as the timekeeper.

Tribal Council members Michael Langley, Jack Giffen Jr., Denise Harvey and Kathleen George attended the forum to perhaps get a feel for all of their potential colleagues come September.

The one issue that received support from all of the candidates was fixing the split-family issue that is also one of the advisory votes on the Sept. 8 ballot, as well as finding a way to put the divisive enrollment audit behind the Tribe and promote healing.

The 100-minute forum concluded with each candidate – this time in reverse alphabetical order – delivering three-minute closing statements.

The official Candidates Forum was the fourth event for the candidates. All of them attended the July 7 Grand Ronde PAC forum held in Grand Ronde while only the incumbents showed up at the July 14 Grand Ronde PAC forum held in Portland. The July 21 forum held in Eugene attracted the remaining eight candidates after Peter Grout withdrew from the race on July 21.

Several candidates noted that the official forum was the best attended of the four events.

The Candidates Forum was filmed by the Tribe’s Information Systems staff and can be viewed by going to the Tribal website at and clicking on the News tab and then Video.