AP

Jonathan Nez, Buu Nygren advance for Navajo presidency

Aug 3, 2022, 12:55 AM | Updated: 5:28 pm

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Voters from the Navajo Nation will see familiar faces in the tribe’s general election: their current president and a former vice presidential candidate, both of whom were on the ballot in 2018.

President Jonathan Nez and Buu Nygren garnered the most votes in Tuesday’s primary among a field of 15. Whoever wins will oversee the largest Native American reservation in the U.S., and the second-highest tribal population.

Both have talked about the need for economic development and extending running water and electricity to the thousands of Navajos without it. Where they differ is on the approach to moving through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Navajo Nation once had one of the highest infection rates in the United States. Nez’s administration enacted tough measures to slow the spread. Movie theaters, restaurants, casinos and gyms still aren’t fully open yet, and a mask mandate remains.

Nez, a veteran politician, has defended the approach for keeping people safe. He said he would bring continuity in a second term, as the tribe works to spend more than $1 billion in federal virus relief funding that largely would address infrastructure.

“I think the Navajo people saw that we are able to handle a difficult situation,” Nez, 47, told The Associated Press. “Not just coming from leadership but to rally the Navajo people to take care of our people, and they did an outstanding job.”

Nygren was former President Joe Shirley Jr.’s running mate in 2018. The two lost to Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.

Nygren left his job in construction management to seek the tribe’s top elected post and contends Navajo businesses are hurting because of pandemic restrictions. He said the Navajo Nation hasn’t been quick enough to respond to a huge loss of revenue from shuttered coal mines and coal-fired power plants and should capitalize on tourism. He has positioned himself as a diplomat who will bring a modern perspective to the presidency.

“It’s very clear new leadership is wanted across the Navajo Nation,” the 35-year-old told The Associated Press. “Just the amount of people who came to vote in a Navajo election where floods were happening, roads were terrible.”

Nearly 48,000 Navajos cast ballots in the tribe’s primary election — a turnout of almost 39% among more than 123,000 registered voters, according to unofficial results from the tribe’s election office. The tribe generally sees a turnout of around 50%. The results still must be certified.

Nez garnered 17,073 in the primary election, and Nygren got 12,878 votes with all 110 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. They’ll choose their own running mates for the general election in the nonpartisan race.

Rounding out the top five were attorney Justin Jones, former Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch and Greg Bigman, chairman of the Diné College Board of Regents, who collectively received nearly 14,000 votes.

Navajo voters also narrowed the list of candidates for seats on the 24-member Navajo Nation Council, ousting less than a handful of incumbents. Current Council Speaker Seth Damon is the only one who ran unopposed.

The reservation is bigger than 10 U.S. states, spanning 27,000 square miles (69,930 square kilometers) of high desert, forests, wind-swept mesas and mountains bordering New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Its population of 406,000 is second to only the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

The slate of candidates agreed more jobs are needed on the reservation where unemployment hovers around 50%. Candidates pushed platforms that included finding ways to preserve the Navajo language and pressing the federal government to fulfill its duty to provide for public safety, health and education.

Supporters of the candidates set up tents across the Navajo Nation on Tuesday, offering fry bread and other food to voters as they made a final campaign push. Election day is a social event on the Navajo Nation, though some precautions were still in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. That included closing to the public the sports center in the tribal capital of Window Rock where election results are tallied.

The others candidates were educator Dolly Mason; scholar Leslie Tsosie; Chinle Chapter President Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch; Frankie Davis; former New Mexico state legislator Sandra Jeff; Emily Ellison; former Navajo Vice President Frank Dayish; Ts’ah Bii Kin Chapter manager Earl Sombrero; and Dineh Benally and Kevin Cody, both of whom sought the tribal presidency in 2018.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

4 hours ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

6 hours ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

1 day ago

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

3 days ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

3 days ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Jonathan Nez, Buu Nygren advance for Navajo presidency