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Tribe Still Plotting Strategy For Oregon Gubernatorial Election

Oregon --- The Grand Ronde tribe has not yet decided on the next move it will make concerning the general elections this coming fall. However, the group vows to continue its public relations offensive regarding casino issues, paired with attacks against Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The incumbent Republican Governor has been supporting a proposal of another tribe to open a casino in the Columbia Gorge. If the proposal is approved, this would bump the Grand Ronde's Spirit Mountain Casino from being the casino that is nearest to Portland.

The tribe meanwhile, has been promoting Democrat Ron Saxton. Saxton has been opposed to the Columbia Gorge casino.

The Grand Ronde tribe has been on a campaign splurge pitting the Democrat and the Republican, spending at least $800,000 in the process. The campaign had heavy TV and radio airtime. If they are successful in tipping the scales in their favor, they would be putting the first Democrat in the seat in twenty years.

"For us, it's really business," says Cheryle Kennedy, the Grand Ronde tribal chairwoman.

Kennedy personally supports Saxton in the governor's race, saying that Kulungoski has failed to deliver on education and other issues, particularly his promise to oppose another off-reservation casino in the gorge to elders while on campaign in 2002. "It's regrettable that someone with the stature of the governor would choose to say one thing and do another." She adds.

"Will we continue to raise awareness on this issue? Absolutely," Justin Martin, a Grand Ronde tribal member and lobbyist said when asked of follow up plans after the $800,000 media blitz.

The Grand Ronde tribe has valid reasons for wanting to be the casino closest to Portland. The benefits are staggering compared to their former way of life since the casino opened in 1995. While the tribe does not reveal the casino's revenues and profits, it is speculated that the tribe earned $90 million in gambling profits in 2005.

The tribe now enjoys the benefits that their ancestors, during the oppressive years could have only dreamt about. In the early days, the tribal council met in a small building at the cemetery. These days, it meets in an impressive wood-paneled governance building that could be pitted side-by-side with the best that the big cities have to offer. Nearby there's a health clinic, an education center, elder housing and other facilities. Health insurance benefit members in addition to this, as well as annual checks to tribal members, which averages $4,700 per person.