TEMECULA, Calif. - Mark Macarro, most widely known as the telegenic
spokesperson for Indian gaming was re-elected to his post as the Pechanga
tribal chairman on July 17.
Along with the 40-year-old Macarro, incumbents Russell "Butch" Murphy and
John Magee were also returned to the tribal council. Elected to council
posts were Andrew Masiel, Marc Calac and the youngest council member,
29-year-old Marc Luker.
Macarro easily held off a challenge from Norman Pico besting him 67 percent
to 33 percent for a convincing victory. In total number of votes Macarro
took 440 to Pico's 214.
"I believe that our tribal members know the fairness and diligence I try to
bring to all of our issues," said Macarro in a press release after the
Macarro has served as tribal chairman at Pechanga since being appointed
interim chairman in 1995 and winning full title in the following year's
The election had what the tribe claims is the highest turnout rate in
tribal history. The tribe has a total of 800 registered voters, 660 of
which turned out for the election which the tribe holds every other year.
Descended from former Pechanga tribal leaders and a UC Santa Barbara
graduate, Macarro is a former substitute teacher who has worked with a few
neighboring Southern California tribes early in his career. Macarro was
first elected to the tribal council in 1992.
He serves on various boards including a position on the Board of Directors
at Borrego Springs Bank and also serves as chairman of the Riverside County
Sheriff's Native American Affairs Commission.
Macarro is also a speaker of the Luiseno language and is well-versed and
steeped in tribal lore as well as active in tribal traditions.
During Macarro's tenure the Pechanga tribe has gone from obscurity to a
major player in California politics largely thanks to the expansion of the
tribe's casino which has gone from a small operation to one of the largest
gaming establishments in the state.
Macarro first became known widely in California during the late 1998
campaign for Propositions 5 and the 2000 campaign for Proposition 1A, both
of which essentially legalized gaming in California. The Pechanga chairman
served as a spokesman for those campaigns and regularly appeared on
His tenure has not been without controversy. Though initial complaints from
a few people who claimed they were shut out of the Pechanga rolls proved to
be unfounded claims by a few disgruntled individuals. A larger scale
disenrollment of 130 tribal members last year, including one of the tribal
cultural analysts, was more contentious. This election was the first since
that controversy last year.
During the disenrollment controversy Macarro, who some have claimed was
caught in the middle, maintained that due process prevailed, though this,
along with the basic premise of the controversy, was bitterly disputed by
the ousted members.
He has been a frequent critic of the state government and though a former
appointee of ex-Gov. Gray Davis he was not afraid to criticize Davis and
other political appointees, such as the governor's Gambling Control
Commission, when he disapproved of their actions.
A strict doctrinaire regarding tribal sovereignty, Macarro recently has
been equally critical of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and in a way provided a
counterbalance to the tough talk Schwarzenegger employed in his campaign
toward Indian gaming during the infamous California recall election last
He has also been critical of recently-signed compacts that he believes
gives the state too much power over tribes. However, he has not gone so far
as to oppose the new compacts outright but said last month that they should
not be seen as a model. However, Macarro has also shown flexibility and
thrown support behind an alternative model that gives a few concessions, as
well as increased revenue to the state, such as expanded health care for
employees, binding arbitration, and increased coordination with local
Despite his high profile Macarro has an often enigmatic relationship to the
press. Known to be fiercely protective of his tribe's privacy, Macarro is
very reticent to discuss tribal matters in public. In fact, he did not
return interview requests for this story before press time.