Baker wins council seat; Olguin, Dutchie go to runoff

Mel Baker is currently director of the Southern Ute Tribal Housing Department.
Ace Stryker | Southern Ute Drum

Mel Baker won a majority of votes in the Friday, Nov. 1 Southern Ute general election and will be seated as the newest member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council in December.

Baker garnered 193 votes, being favored by 52.6 percent of voters casting ballots. He was the only candidate to secure the majority necessary to win a seat in the general election.

Because no other candidate won a majority, the second open council seat remains undecided. The next two candidates to receive the most votes in the general election – current Vice Chairman James M. Olguin with 38.4 percent and Joycelyn Peabody Dutchie with 31.3 percent – will participate in a runoff election slated for Friday, Dec. 13.

The other four candidates in the general election will not proceed to the runoff: Edward B. Box III with 24.5 percent, Lena M. W. Atencio with 15.8 percent, Erwin Edward Taylor with 14.2 percent, and Estelle Monte Jimenez with 13.1 percent.

There are 892 registered Southern Ute voters. A total of 367 ballots were cast in the general election for a voter turnout of 41.1 percent.

The Tribal Council certified the results Monday, Nov. 4 by a unanimous vote with Olguin abstaining.

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