Begay’s story was interesting because it was more about tactics than ideology.

The Political Drama of Carlyle Begay Sort of Fizzles Out

Mark Trahant

TRAHANT REPORTS—I have been fascinated by the candidacy of Carlyle Begay for Congress. It’s been quite the political drama: A young state senator who first earned his office with an appointment, wins election as a Democrat, then says he’s a Republican, then he gives up a shot at re-election to his office, to run for Congress. 

What a story. But there is more. In the middle of a campaign, his wife, Candace Begody-Begay says she’ll run for his senate post, has to resign her job as editor of the Navajo Times because of an obvious conflict of interest, and then fails to make the ballot because she didn’t collect enough legal signatures.

Instead of a good ending, we’re only at a chapter that sort of just fizzled out.

Mark Trahant

Monday Begay ended his campaign and endorsed Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu in the GOP primary.

Begay’s story was interesting because it was more about tactics than ideology. Yes, he may be, probably is, a true believer in Republican principles (though in the era of Donald Trump you have to ask, which Republican principles?). He could have tried to sell his GOP vision to Navajo voters running for re-election. My bet: He would have been crushed. Navajo voters overwhelmingly vote for Democrats — especially in a race that’s a contest between one Navajo politician and another. (Previous: Can one family build a Navajo Republican Party?)

So Begay picked another route.

Arizona’s first congressional seat has the most Native American voters of any district in the country. Nearly a quarter. So by running for Congress, he challenged the status quo (especially within the party). Republicans would have been smart to pull out the stops and back Begay because it would have created a new paradigm: Would Navajo voters opt for a Navajo or a Democrat with a standard resume? It would have been a tough sell, but with resources, and a little luck, the Republicans could have owned this seat for a decade or more. But by the time Begay entered the race there were already a slew of Republicans who had money and the resources to win the primary. So game over.

(To be fair: There are other Navajos still in this race, Republican Shawn Redd and Democrat Kayto Sullivan, but neither has the experience nor the potential resources of a Begay candidacy.)

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On @TrahantReports" target="_blank">Twitter @TrahantReports


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bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
Provided that Carlyle and Candace Begody Begay do not run for another elected seat, I am afraid that the majority of Navajo tribal members will remember them in 5 or 10 years, first and foremost, as Republicans. That is not to say that their party principles are misconstrued, but one could chalk this up as another tribal candidate seeking a state of national congressional seat that lacked a solid and formidable strategy. In short, the candidates, their campaign strategist and managers were neither up to the task or overlooked the pitfalls, ex. insufficient number of eligible voters who signed their petitions. The excuses may be legitimate, but candidates should take a hard, in depth look at all the variables, not only in their backyards, but that of those who they are running against. Carlyle threw his towel in too soon. Fact is, his name is more recognizable than others who are running and Paul Babeu did not possess a clear cut path to victory. My hope is that any tribal members who decides they will throw their hat into the ring in the future, know their adversaries through and through, obtain an uncompromised measure of their voter support, secure solidly experienced campaign strategists and managers, and know that when they knock on the doors for endorsements that they will be largely welcomed. Neither of the Begay's allowed themselves the opportunity to seek, secure and announce to the voters which affiliations or public officials of notoriety that were ready to publicly stand up and endorse them. As I learned from my years of historical studies, strategy, strategy, strategy is what it takes when facing all obstacles that lie in waiting for one to fail.