While everyone is gearing up for statewide politics at the Neshoba County Fair this week, there’s some interesting politics going on inside the MS Band of Choctaw Indians.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians now once again faces a redo election for chief after the Tribal Council voted 9-8 Friday afternoon to ignore the Tribal Election Commission. The commission had previously upheld Tribal Chief Phyllis Anderson’s re-eelection. Anderson has now defeated Denson three times (Beasley challenged the results four years ago too). Beasley came to power eight years ago by defeating longtime Tribal Chief Phillip Martin, who led the tribe out of abject poverty into the mainstream of Mississippi’s economy through a focus on manufacturing and resort gaming.
Denson won, in part, by hammering Martin on his reliance on “outsiders” – (read “non Choctaw”). Interestingly, front and center at Denson’s side at Friday’s Tribal Council meeting to hear the election appeal were a couple more political outsiders: former Democratic Congressman Ronnie Shows and Democratic Trust Chairman Brandon Jones. Apparently either they have an abiding love for Denson or perhaps the Mississippi Democrats see a potential source of campaign dollars – Tribal Casinos. And you’d think with the MS Democratic party continuing to be the political and financial disaster that it is, Jones in particular would be dedicating more time to that effort instead of finding new outside battles to fight. Or maybe he’s just given up on electing Democrats.
This time, Anderson beat Denson 1,907-1,764 (basically 52%/48%), but Denson appears to not consider elections as the final word. To Denson, this election isn’t about the will of the Choctaw People. After all, after electing him eight years ago, a clear majority of Choctaw voters have three times rejected him. For Denson, this appears to be about who has the most pals on the Tribal Council and the last-ditch hope enough tribal members will have grown weary of going to the polls to vote against him.
Interestingly, when Denson successfully defeated Tribal Chief Phillip Martin eight years ago, Martin’s political team began exploring a challenge. Chief Martin stopped the process and conceded the election, understanding that unfounded election challenges are corrosive to public confidence. Chief Martin seemed to get that challenges are not routine parts of campaigns. They are supposed to be invoked to preserve democracy, not overturn it. Too bad other Mississippi politicians didn’t get that message.
It is a shame for the majority of Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians voters that cast their ballots that Beasley Denson and his political pals in the Democratic Party don’t seem to share that opinion.