Stiff competition emerges in upcoming Fond du Lac electionFond du Lac Tribal Chairperson Karen Diver will take on a field of nine challengers in this spring’s primary election, including former tribal chairman Peter J. Defoe.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Fond du Lac Tribal Chairperson Karen Diver will take on a field of nine challengers in this spring’s primary election, including former tribal chairman Peter J. Defoe.
Also up for election this spring are the positions of District I (Cloquet) representative and District III (Brookston) representative.
The filing period for this year’s election closed last Friday. In addition to Diver and Defoe, others who filed for the reservation’s top post include: John Henry McMillen, Jeremiah Savage, Peter Durfee, Ricky W. Defoe, Robert Abramowski, Alan Abramowski, Russell Savage and Wayne Dupuis.
Filing for the position of District I (Cloquet) representative are: Wally Dupuis (incumbent), Lonny Susienka, Donald Wiesen, Thomas Whitebird, Kelly Diver, Kenneth L. Defoe Jr., Eugene “Eny” Reynolds, Melvin L. Defoe, William L. Dufault Sr., Jerrold “Jerry” Ojibway, Carol Renee Jurek and Clayton “Jack” Bassett.
Candidates for the position of District III (Brookston) representative are: Dawn LaPrairie, Bryan “Bear” Bosto, Clarence “Chuck” Smith, Mark Maciewski, Debra Johnson-Fuller, Ernest W. Diver, Frances K. White, Sonya Skoglund and Kevin R. Dupuis Sr.
All candidates are now subject to final certification for eligibility, which is expected to be completed by Feb. 22.
Karen Diver, the band’s first female tribal chairperson, has held the position since Feb. 7, 2007, after the post was vacated on Sept. 11, 2006, by Chairman Peter J. Defoe, who stepped down for undisclosed reasons. That left one unexpired year in his term that needed to be filled. A primary election at that time saw 10 candidates step up to the plate, and the primary ballot narrowed the field to just two – Diver and opponent Clarence “Chuck” Smith.
In a subsequent special election, Diver won the mandate of the people by a vote of 649 to 370 over Smith. At that time, Diver commented she viewed the reservation as an “emerging democracy,” and indicated she was eager to work with the other members of the Reservation Business Committee (RBC) in strategic planning as the reservation moved ahead into the future.
Prior to that time, Diver served as the director of special projects for the reservation for three years.
The year following her election, in 2008, a petition signed by 238 band members accused Diver of malfeasance in the handling of tribal affairs, dereliction or neglect of duty and refusal to comply with any provisions of the constitution and bylaws of the tribe. No further information or evidence regarding the charges was given, however, and RBC members ultimately dismissed the allegations against her.
In the regular election that same year, Diver emerged from a field of five candidates in the primary and went on to defeat challenger Patty Petite by a margin of 96 votes.
Diver, who has made news in recent months for her highly publicized battle with the city of Duluth over division of the revenues from Fond du Luth Casino, may face some of her stiffest competition from former chair Peter Defoe.
Defoe, a former treasurer of the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee, defeated incumbent Robert “Sonny” Peacock for the tribal chairmanship in 2004. Peacock had served as chairman of the RBC for 16 years, and prior to that, Peacock served as executive director for six years. Defoe had served alongside Peacock during one of the most significant growth periods the Fond du Lac Reservation had known, including the introduction of the band’s gaming operation and a boon in construction and services for its members.
The reservation’s primary election is set for April 3, with the top two candidates for each post going on to the general election on June 12.