SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Maurice Lyons was elected chairman of the Morongo Band
of Mission Indians for a third time, in certified vote results released to
the public June 21. The election took place some two weeks before the vote
count was made official.
The results also revealed that former four-term Morongo Chairman Mary Ann
Andreas was successful in her attempt to return to a tribal leadership
position. She is now vice chairman of the approximately 1,000-member tribe.
Tribal elections are an essential part of a tribe's self-governance and
self-determination," said Lyons in a press release. "This process allows
each of our members to ensure their voice is heard."
A source close to the tribe said that the chairmanship vote was close and
Lyons prevailed by only a small margin. His opponents for the chairmanship
apparently were current council members Robert Martin and Joletta Tsosie.
Morongo Communications Specialist Waltona Manion said the tribe does not
release vote totals.
Also taking seats - both for the first time - are former Tribal Elders
Program Director Adeline Bosworth and John Muncy.
Morongo holds elections annually, though the terms of office are for two
years. The tribe staggers its elected council members. The tribal
governmental structure allows for a tribal chairman, vice chairman and five
Rounding out the council are incumbents Martin, Tsosie and Frances Miguel,
whose seats will not be up for election until next year.
The new council members will take their seats in July and the installation
of officers is scheduled for September.
With the return of Andreas, the tribe now has the two leaders who have
overseen the tribe's rising fortunes over the past several years. It was
while Andreas was chairman that the tribe became one of the more prominent
gaming tribes in the state and began to exert political influence.
Andreas was a speaker at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and dined
with then-President Clinton shortly thereafter. She used the opportunity
with Clinton to plead for clemency in the Leonard Peltier case. After her
term in office as chairman, Andreas remained active in the Democratic
Andreas' activism eventually led to the Democratic Party nomination last
year for the state Assembly seat that represents the Morongo reservation.
Former presidential candidate and current Democratic National Committee
Chairman Howard Dean endorsed her campaign. Despite this and endorsements
from other Democrats in a majority Democrat district, she eventually lost
to incumbent Republican Bonnie Garcia by a 58 - 42 percent margin.
During Lyon's tenure the tribe has seen its fortunes further rise. It was
during his time in charge that the tribal casino underwent a $250 million
facelift. The newly expanded casino opened to great fanfare last December
and saw Lyons share a stage with such show business luminaries as Jay Leno
and Carlos Santana as well as private time with top state politicos,
including former Gov. Gray Davis and current Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
Overall, the terms of Andreas and Lyons have seen Morongo grow from a small
gaming establishment to a veritable city including - besides the casino - a
string of retail outlets, chain restaurants and gas stations. Evidence
still remains of former poverty on the tribe's reservation, though it is
quickly disappearing in favor of new stately residences.