Four More Years For Cedric Cromwell As Mashpee Tribal Council Chairman
By: Geoff Spillane
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Cedric Cromwell, whose administration has brought the tribe closer than ever to a casino, comfortably won another four-year term in today's election.
However, Mr. Cromwell will be working with a starkly different leadership slate on the tribal council. He will now be joined by a new vice-chairman, Jessie Baird (Little Doe), and a new treasurer, Robert Hendricks, who defeated incumbents Aaron Tobey and Mark Harding, respectively. Mr. Tobey and Mr. Harding were both close allies of Mr. Cromwell.
Tribal Secretary Marie Stone also won reelection.
Here are the results, according to a press release distributed by the tribe this evening:
Cedric Cromwell - 442
David Pocknett - 242
Richard Oakley - 23
Jessie Baird - 362
Aaron Tobey - 319
Robert Hendricks - 328
Mark Harding - 225
Diane Johnson - 80
Angela Shwom - 75
Marie Stone - 240
Michelle (Shellie) Tobey - 176
Suzette Spinola - 172
Michelle Hughes-Fernandes - 64
Nellie Ramos - 55
In a race for one tribal council seat, Charles "Bobby" Foster III unseated incumbent Selena Jonas 266- 240, with Joanne Peters receiving 201 votes.
The contentious and often emotionally charged election was delayed by two weeks due to the Blizzard of 2013, and has been closely watched by casino gambling observers from throughout the state and beyond. A change in leadership, especially at the chairman position, could have significantly impacted the tribe's plans for developing a proposed $500 million destination resort casino in Taunton.
The next major milestone date with significant casino licensing implications for the tribe comes in in less than three weeks. On March 15, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will decide whether the tribe has made enough progress with its federal land-into-trust application to warrant a continued placeholder for the lone casino license in the southeastern region.
Legislators, rival commercial casino operators, and residents of southeastern Massachusetts have expressed concern that the region may be placed at an economic disadvantage if the commission waits too long for the tribe to receive federal approval.
The tribe recently received a boost to its hopes that the application would be rapidly approved. Earlier this month, US Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn wrote to Mr. Cromwell to confirm that the tribe qualifies under what is known as the initial reservation exemption, in reference to a section of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act created to assist newly recognized, landless tribes such as the Mashpee. Gaming by tribes is technically forbidden, unless they can prove they fall under one of several exceptions to the ban, such as if the casino site is part of the tribe's initial reservation.
In January, Mr. Washburn wrote in a separate letter that the agency will make a decision "in early 2013" regarding its authority to acquire land in trust for the tribe, taking into account the US Supreme Court's 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision, which ruled that only under limited circumstances could the US Department of Interior take land into trust for tribes federally recognized after 1934.
Another key component sure to figure into the Gaming Commission's decision—a renegotiated revenue sharing and regulatory compact between the tribe and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick—has yet to be finalized.
Read Friday's edition of The Mashpee Enterprise for additional details and reaction to today's tribal election.
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