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HomeGovernmentElection ResultsGeoffrey Standing Bear, RJ Walker win Principal Chief and Assistant Principal Chief

Geoffrey Standing Bear, RJ Walker win Principal Chief and Assistant Principal Chief

In a close race, Standing Bear defeats Joe Tillman by just 86 votes

Geoffrey Standing Bear eked out a win and will remain principal chief of the Osage Nation for a third term – 48 months he said will be marked by hard work and accomplishing goals that his administration set out on over the past eight years.

Standing Bear defeated challenger Joe Tillman by just 86 votes out of 2,464 cast – leaving him with a slim 51.75 percent lead over the congressman who persistently lambasted him for failing to provide legislators with financial audits and reports, not filling the treasurer’s position and allegedly settling a sexual harassment case with a former employee while keeping the executive appointee who allegedly committed the misdeeds on staff.

Another Congressman, R.J. Walker, handily won the second-highest office, defeating Tom Trumbly with 70.72 percent of the vote, or 1,659 votes to Trumbly’s 687. Trumbly moves on to another race this fall; he is the lone Democrat running for District 1 Osage County Commissioner.

Because Walker had two years left to serve in his congressional term, Paula Stabler, the 7th-place winner in the legislative election, will remain in office and serve out that time.

The election results were announced at 10:50 p.m., about 10 minutes after the results of the Minerals Council election were delivered.

After a few T-shirts were thrown into the waiting crowd, garnering some laughs, Election Supervisor Alexis Rencountre first announced the results of judicial retention referendums (all judges were retained) then moved onto Congress, then assistant chief, and finally chief.

When she announced Standing Bear had won, a loud chorus of luluing erupted.

After the results were announced, Tillman congratulated Standing Bear.

“It was a hard-fought campaign,” Tillman said in a text message. “Look forward to continuing the betterment of all Osage people.”

Standing Bear was stoic after his narrow win. “I’m thinking of all these good supporters and their hard work,” he said. “We’re going to keep working hard on building our future.”

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear visits with voters on June 6, 2022. LOUISE RED CORN/Osage News

Standing Bear’s administration has been marked by unprecedented growth for the Osage Nation – some of it due to infusions of more than $153 million in federal money for pandemic relief that funded, among other things, a huge meat processing plant, a 44,000 square foot greenhouse for food production, new elder housing and other infrastructure as well as relief to individual tribal members.

Under his administration, new dance arbors and community buildings were or are being built in each of the Indian villages, two green LEED-certified office buildings were erected, and the Nation bought media mogul Ted Turner’s 43,000-acre ranch, which it is using to raise cattle as well as bison.

He has also committed what his detractors view as missteps. For instance, his decision to hire Amanda Bighorse as the head of the WahZhaZhe Health Clinic was ill-fated and led to the departure of many valued medical providers and other staff as the health center spun into disarray. And many view with suspicion the fact that his son-in-law leads Osage Casinos and that his wife and children have worked or still work for the casinos.

Those and other issues may have eroded his support in the current election over the past two. In 2014, when he faced Margo Gray in the general election, he received 1,615 votes, slightly fewer than the 1,659 he racked up four years later when he squared off with Maria Whitehorn. This year, he received 1,275.

Overall, turnout was slightly higher compared to the past two general elections. This year, 2,464 people voted in the chief’s race compared to 2,403 in 2018 and 2,267 in 2014.

Principal Chief candidate Joe Tillman visits with voters and his daughter Cory at his camp on Election Day. LOUISE RED CORN/Osage News

At times, the 2022 race seemed more akin to a political race being duked out in a state campaign. An email detailing allegations of a sexual nature that a former employee made against a member of Standing Bear’s staff was making the rounds just days before the election, and was a topic that was repeatedly raised by Tillman, although no one ever fessed up to being the person who had leaked the document. The Nation allegedly settled the former employee’s claim, but no evidence was ever presented to that effect, leaving the issue murky.

The only common ground the two candidates appeared to share was what they served for lunch at their election camps on June 6: Meatpies – plus Indian tacos at the Tillman camp and goulash at Standing Bear’s.

Hours before the polls closed, both men reflected on the campaign.

“This was the ugliest campaign I’ve ever seen the Osage have, and I wasn’t going to be drawn into it,” Standing Bear said. “Constituents told me that he crossed the line.”

That said, six hours before the polls closed, Standing Bear wasn’t betting that he was going to score a decisive victory over Tillman.

“You never want to be confident,” he said as a steady stream of visitors approached, many hanging out to hear the chief’s tales of working as a lawyer in Indian Country for the better part of four decades. “You just want to see what the election results are.”

Tillman was more upbeat about his campaign. “It’s been a tremendous experience,” he said. “I would do it again and again and again.

“I met many Osage people that I’d never met before and got reacquainted with a lot of old friendships. It’s different when you run for chief than Congress. Congress elects six positions and chief is the biggest and the most important.

“This has been a journey that I love. And this is it. Today. The people have done all their comparisons, they listened to us and it’s time to get the results.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to me other than seeing my daughter being born.”


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Louise Red Corn
Louise Red Corn has suffered from wanderlust for decades: She has lived and worked as a journalist and photographer in Rome, Italy, New York City, Detroit, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma, where she published The Bigheart Times for 12 years. She loves diving in-depth into just about any topic but is especially fond of covering legal issues, perhaps because her parents were both lawyers. She is married to Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, who enticed her to move to the Osage Reservation in 2004. She and her husband live south of Pawhuska with one extremely large dog named Max, one extremely energetic dog named Pepper, and, if he bothers to make an appearance, a surly cat named Stinky.

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