17 file in race to become next Navajo president

Written by: Associated Press

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – The race to become president on the nation’s largest American Indian reservation has drawn a crowded field of seasoned politicians, a woman, political newcomers and the incumbent.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly will be challenged by 16 others in his bid for a second term. Among them are former President Joe Shirley Jr., tribal lawmakers Kenneth Maryboy and Russell Begaye, Carrie Lynn Martin and the third-place finisher in the 2010 primary, Donald Benally.

Navajos will choose two candidates on Aug. 26 to move on to November’s general election. They will also narrow down the list of those seeking a seat on the 24-member Navajo Nation Council. One lawmaker, Jonathan Nez, is running unopposed while other legislative races feature up to nine candidates.

At stake is management of a vast reservation that covers 27,000 square miles and representation of about 300,000 tribal members, not all of whom live on the Navajo Nation. Presidential candidates often focus their platforms on education, services for veterans, ensuring Navajos have a voice in their government and economic development in an area where half the workforce is unemployed.

Nine of the presidential candidates are from the Arizona portion of the reservation, seven are from New Mexico and one is from Utah.

Some of the candidates share hometowns. Shirley and Myron McLaughlin are from Chinle; Chris Deschene and Dale Tsosie are from LeChee; and Begaye, Donald Benally, Duane” Chili” Yazzie and Dan Smith are from Shiprock, New Mexico.

The other candidates are tribal elections director Edison Wauneka, former lawmaker Kee Yazzie Mann, Hank Whitethorne, Edison “Chip” Begay, Moroni Benally and businessman Cal Nez.