Colorado River Indian Tribes’ Chairman Dennis Patch is seeking re-election. He’s one of several candidates for Tribal Chairman certified by CRIT for the Tribal general election set for Dec. 5, 2020.
In addition to Patch, candidates for Tribal Chairman include Richard Evans, Amelia Flores, Dwight Lomayesva Jr. and Granthum Stevens.
Flores and Stevens are currently members of the Tribal Council. Flores is Secretary while Stevens is Treasurer. Flores is also the former Director of the CRIT Library and Archives, and she’s a member of the Parker Unified School District Board.
Patch was elected Tribal Chairman in January 2014 after the previous Chairman, Wayne S. Patch Sr. was recalled. He was elected to his own four-year term in 2016. He had served on the Tribal Council from 1982 to 2008. At the time of his election, he was the Director of the Education Department, and had served there since 1981.
In 2017, Patch came under fire for proposals to lease some of the Tribes’ allotment of Colorado River water to outside interests. This led to a recall effort.
Two Tribal members, Tim Stevens-Welsh and Amber Van Fleet, began the recall effort against Patch and the members of the Tribal Council. They said water is precious to the Mohave people, and their greatest resource. They alleged tribal leaders were gambling with their future in planning to lease the water rights. They accused them of acting without the knowledge and consent of Tribal members.
In published reports, including a statement sent to Tribal members in September 2017, Patch said leasing CRIT’s water would be a benefit to communities around Arizona. He added the funds received from leasing water would be used for economic development on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, most notably to repair the rundown system of irrigation canals operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He said the needs of the Tribes, including environmental protection, would be an important part of any agreement.
Patch was removed from office in a recall election on April 28, 2018 by a vote of 469 to 467. He won back his post July 7, 2018, when he received the most number of votes among seven candidates in a special election to fill the position of Tribal Chairman.
The issue of leasing Tribal water rights to outside entities was put to Tribal voters in a special election Jan. 19, 2019. The members voted 435 to 252 to allow Tribal leaders to negotiate the lease of some Tribal water rights.
A total of 17 candidates will be competing for four-year seats on the Tribal Council. They include Timothy Mariscal, Johnson “J.D.” Fisher, Leo Scott, Woodrow Sharp, Richard Dillon Esquerra, Jimmy Alcaida, Amanda Barrera, Anthony Stone Jr., Tommie Miller, Tim Stevens-Welsh, Etta Anderson, Robert “Bobby” Page, Chance Fisher, Tommy Drennan, Valerie Welsh-Tahbo, Lori Knighton, and Jaymee Moore.
Fisher, Page and Drennan are incumbents on the council. Incumbents who will not be seeking reelection include Johnny Hill Jr. and Anisa Parch.
Stevens has been a frequent and vocal critic of the current Tribal government. Welsh-Tahbo is a former Council member who lost her seat in the 2018 recall election. That seat was eventually won by Drennan. Barrera is also a former Council member.
There are five candidates seeking a two-year term on the council. They include Jermaine “Boyda” Fisher, Daphne Hill-Poolaw, Josephine Tahbo, Erica James and Daris Laffoon.
The CRIT constitution requires elections in December of even-numbered years. The terms of Chairman and Vice Chairman are staggered. Vice Chairman Keith Moses was elected to a four-year term in 2018.