Ute tribal dissidents will face incumbent Business Committee members in two of three races in April general elections following primary elections last week on the eastern Utah reservation.
A field of 23 candidates vying for three seats on the tribe's ruling Business Committee was reduced to two candidates for each seat after 50 percent of eligible Ute voters cast ballots Wednesday, the committee said.Committee Chairman Lester Chapoose and committee member Maxine Natchees will face Luke Duncan and Curtis Cespooch, respectively, in April 18 elections, the committee said.
Duncan and Cespooch belong to Concerned Tribal Members, a group of tribal dissidents working to oust five of six Business Committee members, charging them with, among other things, misuse of tribal funds and tampering with tribal courts.
The charges are at the center of a political storm on the reservation, pitting the supporters of the Business Committee against other tribal members who say they want new direction in their leadership.
In the third race, incumbent Stewart Pike, who is supported by Concerned Tribal Members, faces Jay Groves, assistant director for the Business Committee.
Tribal dissidents were concerned the Business Committee might interfere with elections, but Larry Cespooch, another Concerned Tribal Member, reported no irregularities.
"There were poll watchers thoughout the day" to monitor voting on behalf of Concerned Tribal Members, he said.
Cespooch said he was confident some incumbents would be removed from office, pointing to election results showing Chapoose with only 33 votes and Duncan, of Concerned Tribal Members, with 74 votes.