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Seneca Party sweeps Nation elections

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The long-dominant Seneca Party took complete control of Seneca Nation government in Tuesday's election.

Current Nation Treasurer Todd Gates swept to victory as President, beating off challenges from the One Nation Party's J.C. Seneca and Independent challenger Sally Snow. Also elected were all eight Seneca Party candidates for Tribal Council, current President Maurice John moving to treasurer and Lenith Waterman returning as clerk.

The position of Nation President alternates between the Cattaraugus and Allegany Territories. Gates is from Cattaraugus, while John is from Allegany. Gates said the nation faces some real challenges.

"One of them is our drug epidemic," said Gates. "Competition from New York in the gaming market is something we're going to be looking at, doing something on economic diversity."

Gates said there also are environmental issues.

"Just like the DAPL out in North Dakota, we have our own issues out here with the Northern Access pipeline through Springville," he said. "You'll probably be hearing more about that. I'm a conservationalist, I guess. I hunt. I fish. Enjoy just nature.  I live in the woods. Need to protect that for everybody."

In recent weeks, J.C. Seneca has been very critical of the Seneca Party, saying it would do anything to stay in power. He said there has been harassment of his party members and even criminal acts: wrecking three billboards supporting the One Nation Party over the weekend.

However, he said the One Nation Party enjoyed the greatest advantage by being allowed straight ticket voting for all of its candidates - which yielded 1,000 votes - while his One Nation Party was not allowed to do that.

"The people voted today in the election and they elected all of the Seneca Party candidates," Seneca conceded. "So it means that the Nation will continue to move forward and we'll reorganize and look forward to the next election in 2018 for the One Nation Party."

The Seneca Party has controlled Nation government for nearly two decades.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.