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Early Voting On Qualla Boundary Underway As Eastern Band Primary Nears

Two weeks from today, the primary election for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will take place.  Early voting is already underway on the Qualla Boundary as prinicipal chief, vice chief, all 12 seats on the tribal council, and three seats on the Cherokee school board are on the ballot.  The general election will take place in September.  

Holly Kays covers the Eastern Band government for Smoky Mountain News.  She's been putting together a voter's guide for the election.  She tells BPR's Matt Bush that the issues candidates are running on vary, though many are talking about increased transparency for the tribal council and government.  Kays also says there's still a lot of lingering feelings regarding the 2017 impeachment of principal chief Patrick Lambert, who won the last chief election in 2015.  Lambert faced 12 charges during impeachment proceedings, as he was accused of using the authority of his office to benefit himself.  Kays says critics of the process alleged Lambert's opponents were targeting him over an audit that led to an FBI investigation of the Qualla Housing Authority.

One of the five candidates running for principal chief this year is Teresa McCoy.  Kays reports that McCoy faced some pushback getting on the ballot.  In 1996, she faced a fraud allegation.  A tribal council investigation did not lead to any discipline, and McCoy successfully ran for a seat on tribal council, which she held until 2015  This year, the Cherokee Election Board declined to certify her candidacy for chief based on the fraud allegation.  The Cherokee Supreme Court overturned the board's decision, and subsequently cancelled a hearing for a complaint about their ruling, clearing the way for McCoy to remain on the ballot.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.