Tribal Government & News

Leno, Mercier re-elected; Haller tops Langley for third seat

09.09.2023 Danielle Harrison Tribal Council, Elections


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals editor

Lisa Leno and Chris Mercier won decisive victories in the Tribal Council election, but only one vote separated incumbent Michael Langley and challenger Matthew Haller.

After a recount Saturday, Sept. 9, Haller was declared the winner with 585 votes to Langley’s 584. 

Langley, 56, was vying for his third consecutive three-year term on Tribal Council. He had been serving as Tribal Council secretary since September 2021.

"Congratulations to all of the candidates, especially Chris, Lisa, and Matt," Langley said. "For Veronica and Chris, even choosing to run takes courage and is worthy of kudos. While it has been a demanding job, it has been an honor to serve our Tribe the last six years. I'm proud of what we accomplished. I will always wish for the best outcomes for the decisions this Tribal Council will be making. There is much too important work ahead to ever make it about anything other than good performance." 

Haller, 34, the owner of Wildwood Hotel in Willamina, was a first-time challenger.

"Thank you for believing in and supporting me during my campaign," he said. "In the next three years, I promise to give every single member of our Tribe my all, equally. I will do my best to help our Tribe continue to advance in a positive direction for the betterment of us as a whole. I simply can't thank you enough." 

Newly elected Tribal Council member Matthew Haller, left, is congratulated by Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council member Jack Giffen Jr. before the start of the General Council meeting held in Tribal Council Chambers on Sunday, Sept. 10. Haller received 585 votes, the third most votes in this year’s Tribal Council election. Incumbent Michael Langley received 584 votes, bringing Haller the win by one vote. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo/Smoke Signals)

Leno, 54, won her third consecutive three-year term on Tribal Council, finishing first with 875 votes.

“I would like to thank our membership for your love and support, and allowing me to serve you for the next three years,” she said. “I am committed to work hard with our people to address the issues that impact us all.”  

Mercier, 48, captured his seventh-term on Tribal Council and will tie former Chairman Reyn Leno as the second longest-serving Tribal Council member at the conclusion of his term in September 2026.

Mercier, who was first elected to Tribal Council in 2004, finished second with 603 votes.

“As always, I am grateful to be trusted by the members,” he said. “But the votes indicate that folks want to see some form of change, and we need to be mindful of that moving forward.”

Other challengers in this year’s election were Veronica Montana, 37, the Tribe’s Budget Coordinator and former manager of the Member Services Department; and Chris Bailey, 46, a Tribal Cultural Protection Specialist.

Both were first-time candidates. Bailey finished with 420 votes and Montano finished with 349.

“I want to thank all the people that supported me this year,” Bailey said. “Though the results weren't what I was hoping for, I'm still looking forward to the future and will continue to provide service to our people in other ways. Congratulations to the winners and I am hopeful that they will lead us with wisdom and compassion.”

“I would like to congratulate this year’s winners,” Montano said. “This was a great learning opportunity, and I appreciate all of the help that I received along the way. Most importantly, I want to say thank you to all of the Tribal members who supported me this year. I am beyond grateful for your support and encouragement. I would also like to say thank you to all of the other Tribal members who voted.”

This year marked the 10th consecutive year of single-digit candidates running for Tribal Council. The last time 10 or more candidates threw their proverbial hats in the ring was in 2013.

Turnout was 29 percent with 1,295 of the eligible 4,457 adult Tribal members casting ballots.

Winners were sworn into office at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, in the Governance Center Atrium.

Also on the ballot were five advisory votes. The results were:

  • Should the Tribe change the current enrollment requirements? 773 yes and 323 no.
  • Do you support the Tribe moving toward lineal descendancy for enrollment? 717 yes and 380 no.
  • Do you support the Tribe moving toward a 4/4 blood quantum applied to a specific roll or date for enrollment? 459 yes and 595 no.
  • Do you support repealing and replacing the 1999 constitutional amendment requirements including parents on the roll at the time of application, parent on the roll at time of birth and the Indian blood tied to the Restoration Roll ancestor requirement? 628 yes and 423 no.
  • What constitutional amendment election would be your top choice for Tribal Council to pursue next? Lineal descendancy, 4/4 blood quantum, repealing and replacing the 1999 constitutional amendment requirements including parents on the roll at the time of application, parent on the roll at time of birth and the Indian blood tied to the Restoration Roll ancestor requirement; or none of the above? Lineal descendancy, 423; 4/4 blood quantum, 194; repeal and replace, 156; and none of the above, 162.

(Graphic by Samuel Briggs III)