Traverse City Record-Eagle


September 25, 2008

Challenger elected tribal chairperson

PESHAWBESTOWN -- Tribal members elected Derek Bailey chairperson of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in a special election about-face.

Tribal voters in May backed two-term incumbent Robert Kewaygoshkum, but Bailey capitalized on a second chance prompted by a tribal court's order for a new election.

Bailey, 35, is slated to become the band's youngest chairperson after defeating Kewaygoshkum, 57, in a special election held Wednesday.

A tribal court last month ordered the redo after ruling the band's election board improperly censured Bailey just before the original vote. The board held an emergency meeting two days before the May election and, although no election violations were found, issued an e-mail censuring him for allegedly using his tribal computer to visit his campaign Web site.

Bailey's door-to-door campaigning, coupled with the ruling, helped him win the second election, he said.

"It's always hard to tell what to expect in an electoral process, but I know that I worked very hard in trying to reach the membership," Bailey said.

In May, Kewaygoshkum defeated Bailey 233 to 210. This time Bailey won the four-year position 256 to 186.

Voter turnout was nearly identical for the two elections: 442 tribal members voted on Wednesday, and 443 cast their choice for chairman in May. That counts for about 52 percent of registered voters.

About 1,600 tribal members live in Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix and Manistee counties.

Election challenges will be accepted until Oct. 1, Bailey said. If there are no challenges, he'll take office on Oct. 2.

Kewaygoshkum could not be reached for comment.

Tribal member Nettie Keusch voted for Kewaygoshkum and said he was a great leader who did a lot for the band.

"He knew what he was doing," Keusch said. "(He is) a wonderful person, a family man, very congenial. Everybody liked him."

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