Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell Gets a Big Win

The Mashpee Wampanoags reelected Cromwell with 63 percent of the vote.

Illustration by Justin Metz for “The Big Gamble

After a couple weeks delay thanks to the biggest snowstorm EVAH, the Mashpee Wampanoags had their tribal council election on Sunday. The result was a resounding victory for the incumbent tribe chairman, Cedric Cromwell, who we profiled in December 2011. Here’s the count:

Cedric Cromwell – 442 votes

David Pocknett – 242

Richard Oakley – 23

This will be Cromwell’s second, four-year term. Pocknett has been one of him loudest critics within the tribe—he once helped organize a rally against Cromwell—so the results have to be satisfying for the chairman.

Further down the ballot, there were some additional, interesting results. Newcomer Jessie Baird defeated sitting vice-chairman Aaron Tobey, 362-319, for the tribe’s No. 2 spot, and challenger Robert Hendricks knocked off sitting treasurer Mark Harding 328-225. Considering the mandate, Cromwell seems to have won from the tribe, it’d be tough to judge the defeat of the next two top names on his council as a reflection on him. If anything, that the tribe’s chairman can score a blowout victory while his top two lieutenants lose shows the intensely personal nature of tribal politics. There was certainly high interest in this vote: the Cape Cod Times reports that the 714 tribe members who came out to vote reflected an 100-person increase from the last election four years ago.

One other note this morning from the Wampanoag beat: A couple weeks ago, Massachusetts congressman—and Senate hopeful—Ed Markey joined two colleagues in introducing a bill that would go a long way toward helping the Mashpee tribe open a casino. Currently, the biggest hurdle standing between the tribe and its casino dreams is a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case called Carcieri v. Salazar that prohibited tribes federally recognized after 1934 from having reservation land put into trust. The Mashpee Wampanoags were officially recognized in 2007 and, in order to operate a casino under federal gaming law, need reservation land to do it on. The Carcieri ruling turned on a technicality, and there have been efforts in fits and stops to try to create a “Carcieri fix” in Congress—essentially, a law that would pave the way for tribes recognized after 1934 to be granted reservations. The latest Carcieri fix died at the end of the last Congress, but it looks like Markey is bringing it back. Given the gridlocked state of Congress and the number of more prominent issues weighing on the docket, it’d be a surprise if the bill ever makes it to he president’s desk. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting signal for Senate candidate Markey to send.