One vote determines a tribal senate primary


January 24, 2024

Every vote counts is no mere cliché.

Just ask Bruce James, Jr.

James advanced to the Swinomish Tribal Senate general election next month by a single vote, edging incumbent Brian Wilbur 84-83 and placing second in primary balloting last Saturday.

Myrtle Rivas, who received 97 votes, will face James in the Feb. 10 contest for the Swinomish Senate Seat No. 10 that Wilbur had held for three terms.

Meanwhile, Rodney John and incumbent Eric Day will vie for Seat No. 11 in the tribe’s general election. John polled 103 primary votes while 88 voters selected Day. Jimi Bobb, with 69 votes, was eliminated from the race.

James posted a statement of gratitude shortly after the election results were announced.

“I would like to thank you all for taking the time to come vote today,” said James., who serves on several Swinomish civic panels and ran on a platform addressing the tribal housing crunch and seeking additional support for children’s and senior services.

“I appreciate your support,” he added. “I’d also like to thank Brian Wilbur for all your years of service to our tribe in the senate. Your work over the years is respected. I’d also like to congratulate the other candidates who are advancing to the next election.”

Wilbur has taken on several tribal assignments since 2009, from dental health initiatives to playing a pivotal role in lining up support for the new La Conner Swinomish Library.

“As I reflect on the work we’ve accomplished over the last 15 years,” Wilbur said prior to the primary, “it’s clear how much the policies and programs we’ve implemented complement each other to make our community a better place to live.”

Rivas, a 1985 La Conner High School graduate, pledged while campaigning to support and improve community services and foster the education and welfare of tribal children.

“My goal,” she said, “is to be the best senator that I can be while working with fellow senators to build a better relationship with our community.”

John, the top vote getter among all candidates, highlighted economic development, elder services, support for single parents and enhanced workforce opportunities in his campaign.

“We need to get our community involved, get them trained and look at helping members get started being contractors,” he told Qyuuqs, the tribal publication, before the primary, “and support tribal member-owned businesses so that way we create jobs that stay within our community and with that you help them have a better future.”

Day, the senate’s recording secretary, has advocated job training opportunities for living wage jobs that provide financial stability and self-fulfillment. He has served with the tribe’s employment rights office and on its elder services; planning, environmental and lands; fireworks; and Project Mother Earth committees.

Day has lauded the expansion of the Didgwalic Wellness Center, noting that its care and services are now extended to 500 clients, tribal and non-tribal members alike.

“I support our youth,” Day said in a statement to Qyuuqs, “in whatever their educational goals might be.”

Primary voting was conducted during a winter cold snap. Elections officials put in place protocols for voters wishing to remain in their vehicles rather than walk across icy parking areas to fill out their ballots.

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senate is comprised of 11 members elected to five-year terms.


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