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Update: Ute Mountain voters reelect Manuel Heart as tribal chairman

Winners of the Ute Mountain election pose after results were tallied Friday. From left are Tribal Council Member Darwin Whiteman Jr., Chairman Manuel Heart, and Tribal Council Member Conrad Jacket. In the center is Little Brave Kiowon Cantsee. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Whiteman, Jacket, and Lehi win seats on Tribal Council

TOWAOC – Incumbent Manuel Heart was reelected to serve as tribal chairman for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe during Friday’s election.

Heart attracted 152 votes, or 29% of the 516 valid votes cast. He will serve another three-year term. There were 17 invalid ballots.

There were six candidates running for the chairman seat.

“It was a good turnout this year, and I really appreciate all the voters, the candidates and election staff,” Heart said after the results were tallied at the Towaoc Community Center. “We have a lot of good projects coming up.”

He said progress depends on the tribal council and chairman working together toward a better future. Heart also addressed the community in the Ute language.

The other results in the chairman race were Selwyn Whiteskunk, 123 votes; Harold Cuthair, 72 votes, Angelita Berry, 71 votes, Davis Wing, 48 votes; and Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, 50 votes.

Ute Mountain Ute voters also elected incumbent Darwin Whiteman Jr. and Conrad Jacket to the Tribal Council, according to unofficial results.

Whiteman and Jacket earned 124 votes, or 15%; and Jacket won 101, or 12%. Incumbent Archie House Jr. lost his seat, coming in third with 86 votes, or 10% of the total. There were 49 invalid ballots.

Incumbent Malcom Lehi was reelected to the council seat representing white Mesa, defeating challenger Suzette Morris 39-37, or 29% to 28%. One ballot was ruled invalid.

In close races, the losing candidate may request a recount by the Election Board, said Election Board Chairman Arlene Onco.

Candidates addressed the community after the results.

“The last three years in council has been a lot of work on behalf of the 2000-plus members of the tribe,” Whiteman Jr. said. “We have come this far and we strive as a team.”

Jacket has worked in the tribe’s human resource department for 12 years. He served in the U.S. Army from 2004 and 2007 and served a tour in Iraq.

“I have a lot of knowledge about how the tribe operates,” he said after the results. “I have sat on many local boards and have experience.”

Jacket was elected for the first time to the tribal council. He advocated for changes in the election system to create a runoff system for the top two candidates. He said having too many candidates running for board seats is ineffective.

He also committed to fighting discrimination against the Ute people on and off the reservation and promised to provide tribal members with financial support.

Ballot counter Tronson Ware tallies votes during the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal election Friday. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Malcolm Lehi won the white Mesa council seat by two votes in unofficial results. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

For the two Tribal Council seats, 826 votes were cast, with 49 ruled invalid. For the white Mesa council seat, 76 votes were cast, with one invalid ballot.

There were 13 candidates running for the two council seats representing Towaoc.

The results were Darwin Whiteman Jr., 124 votes; Conrad Jacket, 101; Archie House Jr., 86; Leland Collins Sr., 77; Priscilla Rentz Blackhawk, 68; Adrian Laner Sr., 68; Quinton Jacket, 59; Kenneth Bancroft, 51; Mark Wing, 51; Jacalyn Colorow, 44; Colleen Cuthair-Root, 37; Myron Cuthair, 31; and Helen Munoz, 29.

Six candidates are running for tribal chairman. They are Angelita Berry, Harold Cuthair, Manuel Heart, Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, Selwyn Whiteskunk and Davis Wing.

Public access to the vote count was restricted to election officials, candidates and members of the media because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the community, said Weenuche Smoke Signals Editor Amie Hammond.

The ballot count was being broadcast live on the Weenuche Smoke Signals Facebook Page.