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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- As the race for the governor’s office continues to intensify, a major group has announced who has its support.

Leaders of the Five Tribes in Oklahoma say they are endorsing State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister as Oklahoma’s next governor.

Tribal leaders say she has respect for tribal sovereignty and has a commitment to work with the state’s nearly 40 federally recognized tribes for the betterment of all Oklahomans.

“As a gubernatorial candidate, Joy Hofmeister recognizes that we all want the same things: safe communities, a strong economy, a stable workforce, well-funded education, investments in our infrastructure, and a continued focus on health and wellness, family, and community. When it comes to working with the tribal nations in Oklahoma, she understands our sovereignty is not a partisan issue or a threat, but instead is a chance to forge new partnerships while strengthening those that already exist because Oklahomans thrive together when we all work together. This year’s Oklahoma gubernatorial election is the most important in generations for all Oklahomans, and that’s why leaders of the Five Tribes are endorsing Joy Hofmeister to be Oklahoma’s 29th Governor,” the Five Tribes leaders said. 

The Five Tribes represent more than 800,000 citizens of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations living across the country.

In recent years, there has been a very public battle between current Gov. Kevin Stitt and the tribal nations.

The rift began in 2019 when Gov. Stitt sent a letter to tribal leaders, wanting to renegotiate the percentage of casino earnings the tribes pay as part of their Exclusivity Agreement.

When tribal leaders disagreed, it became an expensive legal fight.

Ultimately, a federal court sided with the tribes.

Governor Stitt’s campaign released the following statement after the endorsement for Hofmeister.

“Governor Kevin Stitt is proud to have the endorsement of the Oklahoma State Fraternal Order of Police as well as the support of thousands of tribal members across the state, because Gov. Stitt has delivered on his promises to turn deficits into surpluses, to deliver safe communities, to fund teachers and education at historic highs, all while cutting taxes for every Oklahoman,” said Donelle Harder, campaign manager.