President Barry E. Snyder Sr., one of the most powerful leaders in the Seneca Nation, hopes to retain a position of power in the tribe’s November elections.
He also hopes to play a role in expansion plans for the hotel at the tribe’s Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls.
Tribal laws forbid any Seneca to repeat as president, but the 74-year-old Snyder is seeking the Seneca Party’s nomination to run for a position on the Tribal Council.
“I feel good. I still feel an obligation to help our nation when I can,” Snyder said. “I know the history of our nation and I feel I can be a mentor to some of the younger office-holders.”
The Seneca Party, which has dominated Seneca Nation politics for decades, will hold its caucus vote Sept. 19. Twenty-seven people want the party’s nominations for eight Tribal Council posts, and at least two people will seek the party’s nomination for president, said Scott Snyder, who is Barry Snyder Sr.’s son and chairman of the Seneca Party.
The two individuals seeking the party’s presidential nod are Maurice “Moe” John – a former Seneca Nation president who currently serves as Barry Snyder Sr.’s chief of staff – and Arlene Bova, a long-time Tribal Council member who wants to become the tribe’s first female president.
Barry Snyder Sr. said he is not taking sides in the race between John and Bova.
“They’re both my friends. They’re both in my party. Both good people,” Snyder Sr. said.
The Seneca Nation’s tribal elections will be held Nov. 4. At least one person, Darlene Miller, plans to run for president against the Seneca Party candidate. Miller, who is associated with the new One Nation Party, is the former acting chief executive officer of Seneca Nation Health Systems. She announced her candidacy Monday, and she too hopes to become the first woman president since the tribe began holding elections in 1848.
The 8,000-member tribe plays an important role in Western New York’s economy, Scott Snyder said.
“We now employ more than 5,000 people in our casinos and other businesses,” he said. According to Barry Snyder Sr., the tribe’s leaders are working on plans to expand the hotel at the Seneca Niagara Casino, which currently has more than 600 rooms.
“We’re usually at 95 percent occupancy, and we feel we’re going to need new rooms,” the elder Snyder said. “We’re getting into the design stages. We haven’t decided yet how big the expansion needs to be.”
An expansion of the casino’s gaming area is also a possibility, he said.
The last Seneca presidential election, held in November 2012, was a bruising affair, marked by vote-buying and harsh accusations traded among some of the six candidates.
With a salary of $185,000 – far in excess of the salaries of Buffalo’s mayor or the Erie County executive – the Seneca president is believed to be the highest-paid elected official in Western New York. The Seneca president plays a major role in hiring and firing hundreds, if not thousands, of people, and also has a major voice in millions of dollars in business deals involving the tribe each year.
Although Snyder Sr. publicly stated that he wanted to make peace with his political enemies after his last election win, opponents said he fired or demoted at least 70 people shortly after taking office.
A millionaire businessman who sells gasoline, cigarettes and other products, Snyder Sr. has served five non-consecutive terms as Seneca president. He was first elected president in November 1992.