The Mille Lacs County Attorney's race was looking like a ho-hum contest between two members of the county establishment: current County Attorney Joe Walsh, and former County Attorney Jan Jude.
That was until June 4, the day before the filing deadline, when former Tribal Court Judge and Deputy Solicitor General Richard Osburn announced his candidacy.
"One reason I'm running is that the people of the Mille Lacs Band are tired of being viewed as the enemy by the county government," said Richard, who is now an unemployment law judge for the State of Minnesota. "The Band has a tremendous amount of resources that could be used to make the entire county a safer place. The county should partner with the Band and utilize those resources. Unfortunately, there are people in county government who view anything positive from the Band as a threat."
Decorated veteran, Indian law expert
Osburn, an enrolled member of the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma, received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where he was named Outstanding Senior Law Student in 1999.
He started his law career as a prosecutor with the Cherokee Nation from 2000 to 2007, when he took a position as Senior Deputy Solicitor General at Mille Lacs. From 2008 to 2014 he served as District Judge in the Mille Lacs Band Tribal Court. As an unemployment law judge for the State since then, he hears up to 22 cases per week.
Richard was raised in northeast Oklahoma and attended a majority Cherokee elementary school. He graduated from Tahlequah High School and enlisted in the Air Force Reserve to help pay for college.
He later transferred to the Naval ROTC and has served as a Surface Warfare Officer on two destroyers. During that time, he led sailors onto foreign merchant ships to search for contraband, earning the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Liberation of Kuwait Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal while in the Navy Reserve.
Richard is a third-generation veteran, and his son is also a veteran who served in the Army infantry in Afghanistan.
Candidates Walsh and Jude
Current County Attorney Walsh and former County Attorney Jude have both stood in opposition to the Mille Lacs Band over the years. Jan Jude, who was elected in 2002, 2006, and 2010, opposed multiple applications to put land into trust as well as the Band's application for federal law enforcement assistance under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA). On many occasions, her court filings stated that the 1855 Mille Lacs Reservation had been disestablished — a long-held position of the County and the State that stands in direct opposition to the U.S. government's position that the boundaries of the reservation are still intact.
Band members and government officials alike had high hopes that Joe Walsh would signal a change in the relationship between the County and Band when he was elected in 2014, but he supported the County Board's decision to rescind the law enforcement agreement with the Band in 2016.