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Heisler, Tibbetts, Auginaush win

When the White Earth tribal election primary was held on April 4, it looked like the incumbents for the three open positions on the White Earth Tribal Council would have a fairly easy time being re-elected, as each received the highest number of votes among all candidates for their positions.

But when this Tuesday's general election was over, District 2 Committeeman Anthony "Tony" Wadena had been upset by challenger Terrance "Terry" Tibbetts, receiving just 255 votes to Tibbetts' 443 (or just 37 percent of the 698 ballots cast overall).

"It feels pretty doggone good," Tibbetts said once the unofficial results had been tabulated late Tuesday evening at the Golden Eagle Bingo Hall in Mahnomen. "I was really sweating it out for quite a while."

Tibbetts said he decided to run for a position on the tribal council in March.

"I was thinking about being of benefit to my people -- getting in there (on the council) and giving them a strong voice," he said. "I look forward to working with the rest of the tribal council."

Wadena was not present for the counting of the ballots on Tuesday. Head election judge Earl Hoagland noted that he and the other candidates would have until June 20 to protest the election results, after which they would be certified as final.

After receiving over 48 percent of the vote in April's primary, Secretary-Treasurer Franklin "Bud" Heisler might have been forgiven for thinking his election to another four-year term was all but assured. But that proved far from being the case, as the vote count between him and challenger Kenneth Fox Jr. stayed very close through most of the evening.

At about 9:30 p.m., with just the absentee ballots and the votes from the Pine Point precinct yet to be counted, Heisler and Fox stood tied at 624 votes apiece. But once the 528 absentee ballots had been tabulated, Heisler found himself breathing quite a bit easier.

When the votes had all been tabulated and read, Heisler had received 401 absentee votes to Fox's 115, which meant that even though Fox took the Pine Point precinct, 69 votes to 47, Heisler ended up with 57 percent of the 1,880 ballots cast for secretary-treasurer.

"I'm very relieved," Heisler said. "That was worse than a nail biter. I was expecting a close race -- Ken did a good job of campaigning."

More importantly, Heisler said, Fox kept the fight clean.

"He ran a positive campaign," Heisler said. "I think that was true for everyone, including both districts (races). I think that speaks a lot for our new reservation politics... (which are) to stick to the issues and facts, and let the people decide who they want, based on the truth."

Now that he's been elected to another four-year term, Heisler said he hopes "to keep all our tribal projects in the black (financially) and not run any deficits."

If he can accomplish this, Heisler said, it will hopefully allow the tribe to access more federal funding because "they know they can trust us," Heisler added.

Incumbent District 1 Committeeperson Irene "Rene" Auginaush, who narrowly missed becoming the first person in tribal history to be elected outright in the primary, by receiving over 50 percent of the vote, admitted Tuesday that she was still nervous until all the votes had been counted.

"I always get nervous (during the election vote count), even when I'm not running," she said. "It's exciting... to get the results, after waiting so long, is a big relief."

But Auginaush need not have worried. She received a total of 297 votes, or 63 percent of the total. Challenger Don Goodwin received 172 total votes, or 36 percent overall.

Auginaush, who was first elected to the council on June 26, 1996, said she's "more than ready" to begin another four-year term.

"I want to get funding for a treatment center for youth and adults, on the reservation -- that's my goal," she said. "We've already started the search for funding... I asked for it to be put on our priority list this year. Hopefully we'll get it (the funding). I see that as a big need for us."

Though the election results won't become final until after the protest period ends on June 20, Hoagland said he believes the final vote count was accurate, and said the process itself had gone smoothly.

"The voter turnout was lower than normal," he added. "Usually, for the general election, we send out about 2,000 absentee ballots, and get about 50 percent of them returned."

This year's number of absentee ballots was about half that, with 1,066 mailed out, and 528 returned (an additional 42 were returned, but not counted because of irregularities).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454