Clarification: This story has been updated after publication to clarify that David Walkingstick's disqualification stemmed from complaints filed by a Chuck Hoskin Jr. campaign staffer and another Cherokee citizen.
The Cherokee Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Wednesday the disqualification of David Walkingstick as a principal chief candidate.
Afterward, Walkingstick signaled the conclusion of his fight to be reinstated in the race by throwing his support behind another candidate.
In its six-page order, the high court termed as “evasive” Walkingstick’s responses to questions during his disqualification hearing in front of the Election Commission. Walkingstick also provided “no plausible explanation” for why his campaign and Cherokees for Change LLC shared a P.O. box address or for “the apparent close association” between the campaign and company, according to justices.
“Notwithstanding, a proper response could have clarified reporting deficiencies but in almost every instance the responses claimed no knowledge of the issue or provided no information to the Commission with a reasonable explanation of the need for clarification,” the court wrote.
The Supreme Court’s decision means absentee ballots or early walk-in votes already cast for Walkingstick won’t be counted. Votes for Walkingstick in the general election Saturday also will be considered naught.
The Election Commission voted unanimously May 17 to disqualify Walkingstick for accepting in-kind campaign donations from a company or political action committee. In his investigation, Attorney General Todd Hembree found coordination between Walkingstick and Cherokees for Change, a company launched by the Walkingstick campaign’s financial agent prior to his official withdrawal from that position.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Dick Lay are the two remaining candidates for principal chief in the election Saturday.
Walkingstick characterized the high court’s decision as “shameful,” silencing the voices of thousands of Cherokee citizens. It created an illegitimate election and stacked the deck for Hoskin, the “chosen successor” of Principal Chief Bill John Baker, he said.
“On June 1st, I will be voting Dick Lay for Principal Chief — a friend who I believe is well-equipped to take on the corruption that has taken root in our government,” Walkingstick said in a statement. “I encourage you to do the same.”
Hoskin called the matter closed and the Supreme Court’s decision final.
“The actions of my opponent’s campaign were a clear violation of our law and a dangerous action that put our nation’s sovereignty at risk,” Hoskin said in a statement. “Continuing to press this further will undermine Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty.”
The complaints that ultimately led to Walkingstick’s dismissal originated from a staffer on the Hoskin campaign and another Cherokee citizen.
The four justices who heard arguments Friday signed off on the order Wednesday morning that upheld Walkingstick’s disqualification. A fifth justice wasn’t at the appeal.
They wrote that the appeal hearing provided Walkingstick’s camp an additional opportunity to provide testimony or exhibits clarifying or explaining issues, “but no such information of probative value was provided.”
Principal among the Election Commission findings was that Rusty Appleton was the listed financial agent for the campaign until May 6, the justices wrote. Appleton created Cherokees for Change on Feb. 21.
Walkingstick on May 8 crossed out Appleton’s name on a form that designated Appleton as the financial agent and wrote in that Appleton “left campaign Feb. 28th.”
The court also noted that Appleton later signed an affidavit in which he attests that Walkingstick knew that Appleton had formed or would form Cherokees for Change to stump for his candidacy.
“All of this activity and the record demonstrate the Election Commission properly found that the facts constitute evidence that Walkingstick knew Appleton had created Cherokees for Change to solicit and receive contributions in support of his candidacy and he and Appleton had engaged in solicitation of unlawful campaign contributions,” the court concluded. “Most importantly, all of this was done outside of the control and knowledge of the Election Commission.”
Chief Photographer Tom Gilbert went up in a helicopter to show what the flooding looked like on Friday.