Tribal Government & News

Tribe holds first virtual Tribal Council Candidates' Forum

07.23.2020 Dean Rhodes Elections


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Tribal Council challenger Reyn Leno was in Billings, Mont., visiting his new great-granddaughter, but it didn’t prevent him from participating in the annual Tribal Council Candidates’ Forum.

For the first time ever, the Tribe held the forum using the Zoom teleconferencing program because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the need to not hold large inside gatherings.

Starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, Reyn Leno joined Tribal Council incumbents Chris Mercier, Lisa Leno and Michael Langley, and fellow challenger Peter Grout for the 90-minute forum that fluctuated between 30 to 35 viewers.

General Manager David Fullerton handled moderator duties and Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez watched the clock to ensure candidates did not go over their allotted time.

After opening statements by Lisa Leno, Langley, Grout, Reyn Leno and Mercier, each candidate had two minutes to answer two prepared questions: What would your priority be in your first 30 days on Tribal Council and what are the strengths and/or gaps you see in the current Tribal government?

After answering those questions, Fullerton asked four questions submitted by viewers and each candidate had 90 seconds to answer.

Viewer questions asked candidates what they thought of developing businesses in Grand Ronde, how to attain enrollment justice for those negatively affected by the 1999 constitutional amendment, what issue affecting the Tribe is not getting enough attention and how would they continue to work on improving and/or repairing the Grand Ronde Tribe’s relationships with other Oregon Tribes?

Although candidates had the option to opt out of answering any of the viewer questions, each candidate weighed in on each topic.

Following the questions, each candidate was allotted two minutes to make a closing statement.

“Overall, I’d rate it an enjoyable experience,” Mercier said about the virtual forum. “There did not seem to be many, if any, technical glitches. While 90 minutes, that seemed to fly by quickly.

“My only gripe is the 90-second response time never seemed enough, and my answers were hurried and incomplete at times. I’d say two minutes is better.”

This year’s field of five candidates is the smallest ever since the Tribe’s Restoration in 1983. Election Day is Saturday, Sept. 12.

Mercier is seeking his sixth term on Tribal Council while Langley and Lisa Leno are seeking their second terms. Reyn Leno previously served seven consecutive three-year terms on council and Grout is seeking his first term.

The Candidates’ Forum was recorded and will be posted at under the Government tab and then Videos.