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Ute Tribe elects 3 new leaders; chairwoman unseated

FORT DUCHESNE, Uintah County — Members of the Ute Indian Tribe's three bands went to the polls Wednesday, electing three new members to the tribe's governing Business Committee.

Uintah Band representative Irene Cuch, who presently serves as chairwoman of the Business Committee, was unseated by challenger Bruce Ignacio. She received 88 votes to Ignacio's 102 votes.

Gordon Howell received 113 votes to defeat Luke Duncan, who received 91 votes, in the race for the open Whiteriver Band seat. Incumbent Frances Poowegup chose not to run for another four-year term.

In the race for the Uncompaghre Band seat, Tony Small defeated Lelilah Longhair, 198-103. Incumbent Richard Jenks Jr. lost his bid for reelection in the primary.

The results in all three races were certified Thursday, according to Adam Martinez, a member of the Ute Tribe Election Commission. No challenges have been filed, but the deadline is three working days after the results are posted, Martinez said.

Ignacio, Howell and Small are expected to be sworn in next month, barring a successful challenge. They will join Ron Wopsock, Stewart Pike and Phillip Chimburas on the Business Committee.

The Business Committee functions as the executive branch and legislative branch of government for the 3,000-plus member Ute Tribe, which is headquartered in Fort Duchesne. The six committee members — two from each of the tribe's three bands — also appoint tribal court judges, giving them oversight of the judicial branch as well.

— Geoff Liesik