Less than a month remains before a primary election will narrow the field of eight candidates seeking to be the next Principal Chief and Assistant Principal Chief of the Osage Nation.
Two men, Thomas Boone and Geoffrey Standing Bear, and a woman, Margo Gray, are running for Osage Principal Chief, the tribe’s top executive office.
A pair of women, Amanda Proctor and Terry Mason Moore, and three men — Randolph Crawford, James "Osage" Dailey and Raymond Red Corn — will be vying for the position of Assistant Principal Chief.
The primary vote, which will be the first in the history of the tribe, is set for Monday, March 10. It is expected to reduce the list of candidates to two for both of the executive positions. A new Osage Nation Principal Chief and Assistant Principal Chief will be decided in the ON general election set for Monday, June 2.
Six of the 12 seats on the Osage Congress are also to be filled in the general election voting. A filing period for candidates in those congressional seats will last from March 14-31.
During previous Osage Nation general election years, large slates of candidates have resulted in a need for runoffs which pushed political campaigns into the mid-summer — conflicted with the traditional Osage dances in June. The Osage Congress adopted the primary concept last year in an effort to alleviate that problem.
Scott BigHorse is currently serving as Principal Chief of the Osages. BigHorse, a former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and state Senate, was elected as Assistant Principal Chief in the 2010 tribal elections. He became Principal Chief on Jan. 21 following the removal from office of John D. Red Eagle.
Members of the ON Congress voted to remove Red Eagle as Principal Chief following a trial in which he was found guilty on five of six counts alleging official malfeasance and abuse of power during his 3 1/2 years in the office. Although Red Eagle filed to seek re-election, the 2006 Constitution of the Osage Nation disqualifies removed officials from the holding tribal office.
On Jan. 30, BigHorse appointed Terry Mason Moore to serve the remaining months of his term as Assistant Chief.
All of the candidates for the Osage Chief positions participated in a pair of debates held Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Co-op Center in Hominy. Public turnout for the event was fairly low due to iced over roads and freezing temperatures, but video replays of the debate are being made available on the Osage Nation website.
The Osage News, an independent tribal news organ, had solicited questions for the debate. Osage citizens from across the country submitted queries via telephone, email, social media and in-person. Those questions were written down and drawn at random by volunteers from the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa, who also served as moderators for the event.
Candidates were provided three minutes to answer each question, and received one extra minute for rebuttal time after all of the candidates had given their initial responses.
It was revealed last week that Tulsa County District Court was considering issuing a bench warrant for Principal Chief candidate Margo Gray due to her failure to appear at a Jan. 9 asset hearing. The hearing is connected to a summary judgment in the amount of $58,640 stemming from a breach of contract lawsuit against Horizon Engineering Services Co., a company for which she had served 19 years as president before stepping down last June.
In response to the issue, Gray released the following statement: "In the business world disputes arise and whether it be through economic changes or in doing business with unreliable clients that outcomes are not always the best. Small businesses doing work with such clients have some times been left holding the bag through no fault of their own."
Gray, who is a sister of Jim Gray — the Osage Principal Chief from 2007-2010 — reportedly told The Osage News that she was not aware of the Jan. 9 court date and had dissolved her connections with the company.