8 Sep 2006
by Edward French
For those who were looking at the tribal election as a referendum on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposal by Quoddy Bay LNG, the results were not clear. Some candidates who favor the proposal, some who oppose it and some who have not made public statements were successful in getting elected.
For lieutenant governor, Thomas Lewey beat out Dale Mitchell by a vote of 210 to 182. Because Lewey will be vacating his seat on the tribal council with his election as lieutenant governor, another election will be held soon to fill that position. Lewey will be replacing Marilyn Francis.
Three tribal council seats were up for election, with Fred Francis, with 158 votes, Dorothy Barnes with 142 and Edward Bassett Jr. with 122 winning the seats. They will be replacing Philip Farrell Jr., Dale Mitchell and Brian Altvater Sr. Votes for other council candidates were: Philip Farrell Jr. 97, Madonna Soctomah 87, write-in candidate Pamela Francis 70, write-in candidate Vera Francis 68, Marla Farrell 64, Viola Francis 56, Frances Fitzsimmons 49, Kani Malsom 38, Philip Stanley 35, Linda Lingley 29, Mary Sappier 25.
For school board, Carol Taylor-Sprague with 336 votes was elected to fill the seat vacated by Dorothy Barnes, and Edward Nicholas was reelected with 272 votes.
Unopposed candidate Donald Soctomah of Indian Township, who previously served in the legislature, received 389 votes at Pleasant Point for Passamaquoddy representative to the legislature.
A total of 410 votes were cast out of 694 eligible voters at Pleasant Point, for a turnout of 59%.
At indian Township, William Nicholas defeated the incumbent governor, Robert Newell, in the September 6 election there. Joseph Socobasin was re-elected lieutenant governor over Richard Stevens by 1 vote. Wayne Newell, Patrick Francis and Glenna Nicholas were elected to the tribal council at Indian Township.
Doyle has previously served over five years as governor and has worked in the tribal government since 1985. He was appointed governor in April 1997 following the resignation of Cliv Dore and was elected to a four-year term in 1998. He lost to Melvin Francis in the 2002 election.
Following the election, Doyle commented that he was very impressed with the turnout of voters, which was larger than usual. Concerning his plans as governor, he says, "We need to get internally organized within the tribe, and we need to build the economy." He will be spending some time assessing what opportunities exist before advocating particular projects.
While Doyle, the incoming governor, believes the country needs to find and use alternative energy sources such as natural gas, he is not so sure about the agreement between the tribe and Quoddy Bay LNG for an LNG terminal at Split Rock. He says he needs to reexamine "with a keener eye" the contract between Quoddy Bay and the tribe. "I will have in my mind and in my heart whatever's best for the people." He adds, though, "In general it doesn't make sense to me to put that facility there on that little spit of land that some of us hold sacred."
However, Doyle emphasizes, "I want to focus on reuniting the tribe after the divisions that LNG has caused. I want us to progress together."
Following the election, Fred Moore commented that he believes that many voters "did not see this as an LNG election" and that there were a number of issues. However, he says, "LNG played quite a bit for those people who are one-issue candidates. It doesn't matter if Adolf Hitler was on the ballot. If he's against LNG they'd have voted for him."
Moore, who supports the Quoddy Bay LNG proposal, says he would have sought more benefits for the tribe from the developer. Although he would not want an LNG project to displace any recreational, cultural or ceremonial activities of the tribe, he believes the Split Rock site can meet those criteria with some design modifications.
Moore, who has been serving as the tribal representative to the state legislature, notes, "I've been relieved of any responsibilities for outcomes of the tribe for the next four years." He comments that tribal politics is like playing musical chairs on the deck of the Titanic, adding, "When the music stops I don't have a seat."
In the primary election on August 24, the field of candidates for governor and lieutenant governor was narrowed to two each. For governor, Doyle received 145 votes and Moore received 114. Also running were Alberta Downing, who garnered 94, and Hilda Lewis, who received 89. For lieutenant governor, Thomas Lewey received 155 votes and Dale Mitchell received 95 write-in votes. Also running were Pamela Francis, who got 93 votes, and Brenda Moore-Mitchell, who received 87. A total of 324 votes were cast in the run-off election.
On Monday, August 28, Pamela Francis, who was not successful in getting on the general election ballot by two votes, officially requested a recount. Her request was denied, though, because the Interim Tribal Election Ordinance states that the request must be made within three days of the election. However, Francis believes that the ordinance means three "working days," since the tribal office building is closed during the weekend.
She and others have also questioned the use of stickers for write-in candidates, since they have not been used before in tribal elections. Councillor Hilda Lewis comments, "I as a council member felt it should have been discussed at a council meeting first." She believes the stickers are "an insult to tribal members," because they suggest "we're too stupid to write a name in." She comments, "A write-in is a write-in, not a stick-on."
Tribal attorney Craig Francis provided an opinion on the issue on August 25 to the Pleasant Point governor and council, noting that both the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Constitution and the interim election ordinance do not mention the use of stickers. Historically, the tribe has used state law when tribal law does not address an issue, and Maine law allows the use of stickers during primary elections but not general elections. The tribal government will therefore allow stickers during a primary election but not a general election.
Pamela Francis, though, questions why state law is being used to dictate the tribe's election rules and why stickers are allowed in one tribal election but not the following one. She requested that the issue be considered by the joint tribal council.
There was also some controversy about voters being able to vote for two candidates for an office, since some felt that the results could thus be manipulated. "Tribal elections are very serious matters that seek to determine our leaders through a majority vote of tribal members," Francis wrote to the election clerks. "Elections are not merely a game of numbers and political maneuvers. I am like many other tribal members of the strong opinion that each tribal member should have one vote." She believes that a rule providing for each tribal member to have only one vote would help present "a truer picture of the intentions of voters."
© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.