Both the Wilson and Heinrich campaigns this week were befuddled as reports of Navajo Nation endorsements for both candidates surfaced around New Mexico.
Democratic Rep. Heinrich and Republican former Rep. Wilson are running for the Senate seat currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
Wilson's endorsement first was reported by several New Mexico newspapers after Wilson received a letter dated Oct. 17 from Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who expressed support for Wilson's platform of job creation, energy sustainability and the sovereign rights of the Navajo Nation.
"Mrs. Wilson, you have clearly voiced your stance in support of the jobs and economic revenues that the coal industry represents to our region," wrote Naize. "Our Nation and our Navajo people are in dire need of leaders such as you who can advocate for sensible solutions and sustainable economic development."
The letter, however, was not an official endorsement, which requires legislation by the Navajo Nation Council, according to Eric Descheenie, chief of staff for the Navajo Nation Legislative Branch.
"The letter never speaks to endorsing (Wilson), it's more of a letter of support from Naize," Descheenie said Thursday.
Wilson campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez avoided questions about whether an endorsement would have been preferred, though he said the Wilson campaign was glad to have the letter.
However, the endorsement of Heinrich also was not official, according to Descheenie.
Council delegate Russell Begaye proposed the endorsement of Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luj n on Oct. 16.
The Navajo Nation's Naa'bik'iyati' Committee approved the endorsements Monday, with only one delegate opposing Heinrich's endorsement. None were opposed to Luj n's.
The committee comprises the majority of Navajo Nation Council members, but the council itself has not yet voted on the legislation, according to Jerome Clark, communications director for the council.
The endorsements, therefore, are not yet final, as Begaye, a Democrat, had reported Monday. Granted, both used the word "endorsement" in the writing, which was not the case in the letter written to Wilson's campaign.
"It is a great honor to receive the endorsement of the Navajo Nation. The voices of the Navajo people are critical to moving our country forward and providing a better future for our children," said Heinrich in a press release issued Tuesday, just after the campaign learned of the supposed endorsement.
Begaye said Monday both Heinrich and Wilson received letters of support, each listing the individual platforms that the Navajo Nation would support.
Only Wilson received a letter, Descheenie said.
Heinrich campaign spokeswoman Whitney Potter had little to say about the incomplete endorsement, deferring all questions to Begaye.
The Navajo Nation has an emerging policy that addresses the process by which the tribe will endorse politicians, Descheenie said, though neither the council nor the speaker is very concerned about how the fuss might upset either campaign.
"The Navajo Nation doesn't subscribe to one party," said Descheenie.