Cherokee Nation elects new chief in close race

By Murray Evans
Associated Press

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY » After an all-night wait as the final votes were counted, the Cherokee Nation has elected a new principal chief.

Final election results posted shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday on the tribal website indicated Bill John Baker has unseated three-term incumbent Chad Smith. The results show Baker leading Smith by 11 votes out of more than 15,000 cast. The vote margin between the men had been fewer than 30 votes since late Saturday.

Baker is a longtime tribal councilman and Tahlequah businessman. He will take the oath of office on Aug. 14. The Cherokee Nation is Oklahoma’s largest American Indian tribe and one of the nation’s biggest, with a membership approaching 300,000 people. The Tahlequah-based tribe has a 14-county jurisdiction in eastern Oklahoma.

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