Five of Oklahoma’s largest tribes will publicly endorse Democrat Joy Hofmeister for governor at a press conference in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, a source with knowledge of the plans confirmed to The Frontier.
The endorsement will mark the first time the state’s five largest tribes have coordinated a collective endorsement of a gubernatorial candidate, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a brief interview.
“I have not heard of the five leaders doing it before,” Hoskin said. “So that speaks to how significant this race is. I think we all feel like this is a pretty historic election.”
Randy Sachs, director of public relations for the Choctaw Nation, said last week that the tribe was “not ready to announce anything yet.” Spokespeople for the Seminole and Chickasaw tribes did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Muscogee Nation told The Frontier last week the tribe plans on endorsing Hofmeister.
A spokeswoman for Hofmeister’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the tribal endorsements.
“No surprises here. (Hofmeister) has always been bought and paid for by special interests,” Donelle Harder, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
The endorsement will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Petroleum Club in Oklahoma City.
“When it comes to working with the tribal nations in Oklahoma, (Hofmeister) understands our sovereignty is not a partisan issue or a threat, but instead is a chance to forge new partnerships while strengthening those that already exist because Oklahomans thrive together when we all work together,” The Five Tribe leaders said in a joint statement. “This year’s Oklahoma gubernatorial election is the most important in generations for all Oklahomans, and that’s why leaders of the Five Tribes are endorsing Joy Hofmeister to be Oklahoma’s 29th Governor.”
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Stitt, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, has had a frosty relationship with tribes and tribal leaders during his first term as governor. Hoskin has already personally endorsed Hofmeister and has in the past called Stitt “the most anti-Native American governor in state history” for his constant fights with the tribes over gaming and jurisdictional issues.
Hoskin gave an impassioned speech in support of Hofmeister at the Mike Synar Memorial Bar-B-Q fundraiser event on Oct. 1.
“We have a governor who looks across this beautiful state and sees all of its diversity — diversity of people, diversity of communities — and he just sees opportunities to drive a wedge,” Hoskin said on stage, speaking to the crowd of about 400 people. “He looks across this state and sees tremendous resources and he’s squandered so many of those resources that could be used for the public good.”
During her campaign, Hofmeister has called for the state to have a better working relationship with the tribes.
“Instead of fighting for jobs, we have a governor today that wants to fight with the Supreme Court,” Hofmeister said at the fundraiser earlier this month. “He’d rather cause chaos and division than collaborating or partnering with our tribal sovereign nations.”
The joint endorsement comes as Stitt’s lead over Hofmeister has evaporated in polling done by SoonerPoll. The most recent SoonerPoll showed Hofmeister with a three-point lead over Stitt, though Stitt released internal polling in response that showed him with a healthy 15 point advantage.
The most recent polling done by Amber Integrated, which was released in late September, showed Stitt up three points over Hofmeister.
During his first term, Stitt fought to overturn the landmark 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma U.S. Supreme Court decision that weakened the state’s ability to prosecute some crimes on Native American land. After legal challenges by the Stitt administration, the Supreme Court narrowed the McGirt ruling earlier this year with the Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta decision. Some indigenous leaders have viewed the Castro-Huerta ruling as a blow to tribal sovereignty.
During Stitt’s first three years in office, he fought the tribes over their long-established gaming compacts with the state. The tribes argued the compacts renewed automatically but Stitt argued the deals had to be renegotiated. Stitt lost multiple court challenges over the deals and the compacts were ultimately allowed to renew.
Stitt has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police and 68 Republican legislators.