17 Candidates Vying for Navajo Nation Presidency

Alysa Landry

Navajo President Ben Shelly will face 16 opponents, including his former boss, in his bid for a second term.

The race to become the Navajo Nation’s next president features a mix of lawmakers, former tribal officials and political newcomers. Among the 17 candidates who met the May 28 filing deadline – and paid a total of $25,500 in filing fees – are the tribe’s only two-term president, two Navajo Council delegates and one woman.

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

The Navajo Election Administration on June 4 certified all the candidates to run for office. The primary election is set for August 26. Voters will choose two candidates to move on to the November 4 general election.

Here are the candidates, in alphabetical order:

Edison “Chip” Begay is a resident of Tohatchi, New Mexico.

Russell Begaye, of Shiprock, New Mexico, has served as the Shiprock delegate to the Navajo Council since January 2011. A career businessman, Begaye is running on one platform: Unity. “We must all work together, the Navajo Nation Council, the Navajo Nation president and all 110 chapters,” he said.

Donald Benally, of Shiprock, is a career politician who has served as a Navajo Council delegate and vice president of the Shiprock Chapter. One of 12 presidential candidates during the 2010 race, Benally came in third. If elected, he wants to “build a greater Navajo Nation of today, tomorrow and beyond.

Moroni Benally, of Tolikan, Arizona, is working on a Ph.D. in public policy and management from the University of Washington. If elected, he promises to take control of the tribe’s destiny and focus on real people.

Chris Deschene, an attorney from Lechee, Arizona, is campaigning for a new generation of leadership. “We are a proud Nation; strong and fiercely independent,” he said. “Our new leaders must have the strength, experience and courage to decisively take action for our people.”

Kee Yazzie Mann, of Kaibeto, Arizona, is a former Navajo Council delegate.

Carrie Lynn Martin, of Bodaway/Gap, Arizona, is the sole female contender in the race.

Kenneth Maryboy, of Mexican Water, Utah, is a Navajo Council delegate and commissioner for San Juan County, Utah. If elected, he will be the first Navajo president from Utah.

Myron McLaughlin, of Chinle, Arizona, is running on a platform of cultural values and honesty. “I am ready to restore, repair and redirect our Navajo Nation government to a respectful government,” he said.

Cal Nez is a businessman from Tse alnaozt’i’, New Mexico.

Ben Shelly, of Thoreau, New Mexico, is the incumbent. He wants a second term to finish what he started. “It takes tough leadership to face the tough challenges,” he said.

Joe Shirley Jr., of Chinle, Arizona, served as the tribe’s only two-term president from 2003 to 2011. If granted a third term, he promises to serve with “heart, integrity, diplomacy and sacredness of mind.”

Dan Smith is a resident of Shiprock, New Mexico.

Dale E. Tsosie, of LeChee, Arizona, calls himself “a leader for real change.”

Edison Wauneka, of Oak Springs, Arizona, is executive director of the Navajo Election Administration. If elected, he promises to “rebuild a strong Navajo Nation that enjoys the support of the Navajo people.”

Hank Whitethorne is a resident of Shonto, Arizona.

Duane “Chili” Yazzie, of Shiprock, New Mexico, is serving in his third term as president of the Shiprock Chapter. He promises a “down-home, homemade, grassroots, Hogan-level campaign.”

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100IndigenousAmerican's picture
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
Candidate Duane Yazzie and Don Benally are the only candidates talking Dine' identity and the high value of Dine' culture. They are right, there is no room for error and lose everything forever. Fractional Indian beliefs in education, economic development and in law is about forgetting the ancestors.

CJKlepper's picture
Submitted by CJKlepper on
Navajo Nation needs to move forward and not be held back by the "traditionalists". It's time for the younger generation like Deschene and others who have experienced the world outside of the Rez. Also being an attorney he held up to higher standards and professional ethics. I remember as a child my grandfather (a former councilman from Klagetoh) always set us down and told us to do the right thing by our people. Today, all I read about is corruption by misleading the traditional Navajos as they are the ones who have been fed false promises like one of the candidate calls "grassroots", "Hogan-level" campaign. Promises like rebuilding, serving with integrity, diplomacy. sacredmess, restoration, etc., is nothing but false promises being made. The Navajo Nation's best bet to lead its people is Deschene.

100IndigenousAmerican's picture
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
CJKlepper- I am furthest from your "traditionalist". My insights are from living in and off the Dineh homelands. In my view, speaking Dineh fluently, in philosophy, and in thinking connected to the poetry of Dineh prayer fluidly critical qualifications for all candidates. Very simple, honor the ancestors and get what is a fair trade for Dineh for displacement, fair market value for resources, and an insight on how to pursue development based in water and land resources. This would include livestock and agronomic development for a specific world market. Jobs by the hundreds without disrupting changes, and changes coming through respectfulness is to unite the tribe. This would mean 100pct Dineh thinking and Dineh being. Ignore the negatives that is paltry dollars compared to our potential united and common in endeavor.