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Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribal Council special election will fill 2 vacant seats

A photo of a collection of signs on the Qualla Boundary for candidates running in the special election for Tribal Council.
Lilly Knoepp
Across the Qualla Boundary, 17 candidates are campaigning for the two seats open on Tribal Council. The special election will take place on December 15th.

Updated with unofficial results following December 15

The unofficial results of the Eastern Band of Cherokee special election were announced, according to the Cherokee One Feather.
For the Wolftown seat, Andrew W. Oocumma won with 131 votes – just 14 votes ahead of the second-vote getter Mike Parker.

For the Painttown seat, Sean “Michael” Stamper won with 105 votes - that’s 54 votes more than the second top vote-getter Jeff Thompson.

The results will be certified at the next Tribal Council session in January.


The Eastern Band of Cherokee (EBCI) is holding a special election December 15 to fill two vacant seats on the Tribal Council.

Qualla Boundary elections for tribal council are regularly held every two years but in special circumstances the seats might become vacant and need to be filled before the regular election, according to Cherokee One Feather reporter Jonah Lossiah.

“Nobody at the Cherokee Feather offices could remember or recollect a special election to fill a position before,” said Lossiah. “That’s well over 20 years of experience and we’ve never seen this before.

Tribal Council called for the special election because the two seats will be open for almost a year. The election is facilitated by the EBCI Board of Elections.

In October, longtime Tribal Council Representative Tommye Saunooke passed away at the age of 82. Her passing left the Painttown seat open. She served on Tribal Council for 24 consecutive years, according to the Cherokee One Feather.

The Wolftown/Big Y seat opened up when Representative Bill Taylor resigned in October following criminal charges of domestic violence.

During the pre-trial hearing, impaired driving was added to the charges of domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment.

Lossiah has been covering the trial in Tribal Court.

“We don’t want to slander anybody's name or anything of that nature but when a member of the community as significant as Representative Taylor comes up it needs coverage,” said Lossiah.

According to the court documents, Taylor admitted to driving into his wife’s vehicle and to binge drinking, Lossiah reported.

There are 17 candidates for the two open seats with eight candidates for Painttown and nine for Wolftown/Big Y respectively.

Lossiah says the candidates range from former politicians who have held the seat before to current Tribal employees, retired representatives and others who are looking to be elected for the first time after a career outside the Tribe.

“I would say that it is impossible to know who has a leg up because you really don’t know in these elections,” said Lossiah.

The Smoky Mountain News published questionnaires from 15 of the candidates, which was then republished by the One Feather.

Polls will be open 6 am to 6 pm on Thursday, December 15, with no early or absentee voting.

Lossiah says he expects the winner to be announced by that evening.

The winning candidates will serve until the next election which is scheduled for September 7th, 2023.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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