Yazzie celebrated his victory over incumbent William Lee on Tuesday while sitting around a fire with family and friends in the Shiprock Chapter House parking lot. Community members had gathered in the lot to wait for results.
“Praise Jesus,” shouted Elizabeth Curley, who led a traditional prayer for community members huddled around the fire. Others honked their car horns and let out yelps of delight as they heard of the results.
With 1,686 votes, Yazzie won by a landslide. Lee had 558.
Yazzie was chapter president from 2000 to 2008, and also the secretary and treasurer for the chapter from 1976 to 1980. He also served as a Navajo Nation Council delegate for two terms, from 1986 to 1992.
Among his highest priorities, Yazzie hopes to increase the accountability of the chapter and hopes to make over its blemished reputation.
The chapter since 2008 has been at the center of a pair of bad audits, both of which held Yazzie and Lee partially accountable. The chapter still is under sanctions by the Navajo Nation because of the audits.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Yazzie said. “It’s compounded by the fact that we are the largest chapter.”
Yazzie, who has been in and out of politics since 1975, said his priorities are too long to list. Among his top priorities are agriculture and infrastructure.
Lee also was at the chapter house Tuesday evening and congratulated Yazzie on his victory after shaking his hand.
“There’s a lot of deficiencies we’re going to have to overcome,” said Lee, wishing Yazzie luck.
Lee said he ran into a number of obstacles, such as the sanctions, that made his time as president difficult. Other challenges included budget cutbacks and dealing with the policies of various organizations all at once.
Lee, who is a control operator at Arizona Public Service, said he is uncertain of whether he will run for an elected position in the future.
“I’ll think it over,” Lee said.
Jerry Jay Todacheene and Harrison Todacheene also ran for president but did not make it past the primary election.
Also victorious in the Shiprock Chapter election was Tommie Yazzie, who is unrelated to Duane, but will become the new chapter vice president. Tommie defeated incumbent Donald Benally, who won the primary election. Tommie took 1,170 votes, and Benally, 1,095.
J “Kaibah” Begay won the chapter secretary-treasurer position with 1,571 votes, compared to Mildred F. Mitchell, who had 710.
“It’s the people’s choice,” said Begay, who looks forward to assisting in creating a more accountable chapter.