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12:34 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Trial Election

Tahlequah, OK – Oklahoma tribal election has a Washington feel

CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) A contentious campaign for principal chief of the Cherokee Nation between incumbent Chad Smith and longtime tribal councilman Bill John Baker is near an end.

The election is Saturday to determine whether Smith gets a fourth term as leader of the Tahlequah-based tribe or if Smith takes over.

Both sides accuse the other of negative campaigning.

Smith has run a full-page newspaper ad mocking Baker's furniture business. Baker says he's the only candidate who refuses contributions from non-Indian outside vendors who he says make money from the Cherokee government.

Smith came to power in 1999 by defeating Chief Joe Byrd. Byrd's running mate was Baker.

Baker has served 12 years as a councilor and his running mate Chris Soap is the stepson of the late Chief Wilma Mankiller.