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Anderson unseats Denson as Choctaw chief

CHOCTAW — Phyliss J. Anderson has unseated incumbent Beasley Denson to win the race for Choctaw Tribal Chief

In complete, but unofficial returns from yesterday’s election, Anderson polled 2,011 votes, or 56 percent, to win over Denson, who had 1,523 votes, and Shirley Martin Berg who tallied 63 votes.

Choctaw Election Committee chairman Berdie John says 241 absentee ballots would be counted today.

It was the second election for chief in the past few months. The Choctaw Tribal Council tossed out results of the first election amid complaints about voting irregularities. Denson broke a tie to throw out the election results and start from scratch.

Ten candidates challenged Denson on June 14, and that election ended in a July 15 run-off between Denson and Anderson.

Anderson, 50, received 55 percent of the vote in the runoff and was declared the winner before the results were tossed out.

Denson, 61, was elected in 2007, defeating longtime chief Phillip Martin. Martin died in 2010.

The tribe has about 10,000 members spread through eight communities in Mississippi and one in Tennessee. The chief position pays $466,000 a year.

In her victory speech, Anderson said, “Today our tribal people spoke for a third and final time. It’s clear our people want new leadership. I thank everyone for their support and perseverance. It has been a long eight months, and I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of family, friends and supporters.”

She told tribal members, regardless of whom they supported, “My administration will represent all tribal people.”

She said she would focus on building jobs, improving health care, offering more education and strengthening economic development.

“It is far past time that we move our tribe forward,” she said.

Anderson will inherit a host of issues. On July 12, dozens of FBI agents raided the Pearl River Casino & Resort, seizing documents and hard drives.

Two days later, Moody’s downgraded to junk bond status $200 million in securities borrowed by the Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise.

The FBI’s investigation may “indicate potential internal control weaknesses and could affect Choctaw’s casino operations in the future,” said Moody’s report.

After serving the tribe for more than a decade, Price Waterhouse Coopers, resigned as outside auditor — replaced last week by BDO.

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