Opinion | Politics

Campaign: How Bill John Baker won Cherokee Nation election





"The race to head the Cherokee Nation isn’t typically a contest favorable to the use of more traditional campaign techniques—new media, direct mail and phones. So the question for our team upon deciding to take on the challenge of unseating a 12-year incumbent this past year was whether modern campaign tactics could work in a storied and somewhat closed political culture.

The short answer is yes. But it meant breaking 30 years of tight control from an insular group, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and nine months of focus on a project undertaken on a whim.

The goal was to unseat Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith, who was running for another term as head of America’s largest Native American tribe. We knew from the start that it would be no easy task. Smith was an attractive, charismatic politician who understood how to use the mechanism and resources of government to completely control the Cherokee Nation—and to maintain a stranglehold on the tribe’s election process. Previous races against the chief ended in lopsided losses as vendors and insiders contributed the $5,000 max to the incumbent and challengers were left with no avenue for contributions. "

Get the Story:
Dane Strother: Breaking through a storied political culture (Campaigns and Elections 2/3)