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White Earth election: Incumbents re-elected; Durant defeats McArthur

As Robert J. Durant sat anxiously in Mahnomen's Golden Eagle Bingo Hall

waiting for the White Earth election results Tuesday night, he crossed his

fingers and prayed for good news.

His prayers were answered as he defeated Eugene "Bugger" McArthur in the run

for secretary-treasurer with 1,632 votes or 66 percent, according to the

complete but unofficial election results. McArthur received 807 votes.

"It's been a long journey and an experience like no other," Durant said.

Meanwhile, Irene "Rene" Auginaush celebrated with family and friends after

winning yet another term as District I Representative by 296 votes, or 52

percent against Steven (Punky) Clark, who received 267 votes.

It was a close call for the District II Committeeman seat. Incumbent

Terrence "Terry" Tibbetts, Sr. won with 480 votes or 50 percent, while

challenger Kenneth M. Coleman, Jr. received 462 votes, or 49 percent.

Durant ran for secretary-treasurer four years ago but didn't make it to the

general election.

This time, he said, he put more effort into his campaign. His motivation was

"the future of our government and the unknown possibilities that could

affect the White Earth Nation," he said.

After running a "clean campaign," he looks forward to serving on the tribal

council with plans to work closely with state and federal governments.

"I'm concerned that there are forces all around us that try to weaken our

tribal sovereignty and treaty rights.

"I see our nation as a nation of opportunity and in many aspects an untapped

economical market that can bring wealth and prosperity to everyone in the

nation," he added.

Newly re-elected Auginaush plans to strengthen housing opportunities for the

elderly in her Rice Lake community -- she received 139 votes there, while

Clark received 73.

With more people moving back to the reservation, it seems more economical to

provide affordable elderly housing instead of maintaining older homes, she


Although she has served on the council for 16 years, she said this year's

campaign was the most difficult of all.

"It was a mean campaign," she said, referring to numerous negative comments

made about her on social networking sites like Facebook.

But starting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, she received many good luck phone calls

and text messages that made her feel good about the election night, she


District II Committeeman Tibbetts, wants to bring more attention to the

positives that have developed on the reservation in the past four years he's

been on the council.

"There is so much garbage out there," he said. "It's dragged down to a level

where people are expected to believe anything about you."

During the past few years, the White Earth Reservation gained a tribal

college, an inexpensive mass transit system, a native public defense system

and major infrastructure, Tibbetts said.

The voter turnout in his district was high compared to previous years --in

Naytahwaush, 707 ballots were cast.

"That was the highest we've had since I've been working at the Naytahwaush

precinct," said Oscar Oppegard, who has been a Naytahwaush election official

for eight years.

In the White Earth precinct, 213 voted for Durant, while 83 voted for


Absentee ballots accounted for a total of 915 votes out of nearly 4,000 cast

in Tuesday's election.

The deadline to appeal the results is June 28. Winning candidates are to

assume office by July 13, unless sooner seated, or the election is subject

of appeal.