Cherokee National Holiday (copy)

Chuck Hoskin Jr. — pictured in 2014 — came in first in the weekend’s Cherokee principal chief elections. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

Congratulations to Chuck Hoskin Jr., who won this weekend’s election for principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Hoskin, a former secretary of state and council member for the tribe, won nearly 58% of the vote in the unofficial, preliminary count. Election challenges are still possible and about 400 votes remain in question, but Hoskin’s margin of victory was substantial.

The campaign to replace term-limited Principal Chief Bill John Baker was rough and thoroughly litigated.

Initially, four candidates filed for the office. The tribe’s election commission removed Rhonda Brown Fleming, a California resident, because she did not meet a tribal requirement that she live in the Cherokee Nation — all of which is within Oklahoma — for at least 270 days prior to the general election. She challenged the ruling unsuccessfully in federal court.

David Walkingstick mounted a spirited campaign, but the election commission also struck his eligibility after questions were raised about potential collaboration between his campaign and Cherokees for Change, a third party limited liability company. Walkingstick’s name still appeared on the ballots, but he got less than 15% of the vote. The one remaining eligible opponent to Hoskin — Tribal Councilor Dick Lay — received a little over 27% of the vote.

With the victory, the real work begins for Hoskin.

First, he needs to unify the nation. Hard campaigns are a Cherokee tradition; but now that the election is over, the new chief-elect needs to convince all sides to pull together for the good of the tribe.

Continuing the tribe’s economic growth and its ability to serve Cherokee citizens is a must. That’s a mandate that goes beyond casinos to include support of schools, roads, health care and more.

Several cases pending in court with significant implications for the Cherokees are likely to be decided on Hoskin’s watch, including the multistate litigation against opioid manufacturers and the Patrick Murphy case, which could redefine the future of tribal sovereignty in Oklahoma.

The new chief is scheduled to be sworn into office Aug. 14 in Tahlequah. We wish him well for the good of the nation and Oklahoma.

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