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SHIPROCK Whether they can spell her last name or not, District 4 voters ushered in Sharon Clahchischilliage as their new state representative on Tuesday.

Out of 9,138 votes from the district, Clahchischilliage defeated Rep. Ray Begaye with 5,669 of those votes, far ahead of Begaye, who had 3,469 according to preliminary results issued by the San Juan County Clerk's office Tuesday night.

"I'm doing terrific. I am ecstatic at what's going on, "Clahchischilliage said Tuesday evening from the San Juan County Republican Party's celebration at the Fraternal Order of Police in Farmington.

"I am so relieved. This is a big break through. To beat a 14-year seniority state representative, it says a lot," she said.

Begaye, 57, has represented District 4 since 1999, though he could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening by phone or email. He was not at the San Juan County Democratic Party's celebration at Chef Bernie's in Farmington on Tuesday.

Clahchischilliage said she had not heard from him.

The race was not easy, Clahchischilliage said, as she felt her nerves Monday evening before the election. While confident in her chances, she said her confidence was shaken by some of the misinformation spread by the Democratic Party of New Mexico at the last-minute.

"They really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel, and take everything out of context," Clahchischilliage said.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico claimed that Clahchischilliage was "not Navajo enough," and that her firing of several Navajo was racially driven.

"There's always going to be disgruntled employees," Clahchischilliage said. "That's just management."

Clahchischilliage is no stranger to politics, and said she knows how to handle them.

Clahchischilliage served as chief of staff for the Navajo Nation Council under Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly before resigning to campaign for the District 4 seat.

She also ran for Navajo Nation president unsuccessfully against Shelly in 2010, and ran unsuccessfully for New Mexico secretary of state in 2002.

Clahchischilliage also was the director of the Navajo Nation Office in Washington, D.C., under the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and the first half of Barack Obama's current presidency. She also led the National Council of Urban Indian Health.

Many District 4 voters, however, did not know what to expect Tuesday given that Begaye, who is related to Clahchischilliage, has held his seat for so many years.

"I am thrilled. I can't say enough about how hard she is worked to get her message to the people, which obviously resonated," said Pat Cordell, chairman of the San Juan County Republican Party.

Begaye, who touted his seniority as a representative in recent interviews, spoke of his efforts to pass legislation that benefitted American Indians in New Mexico and in the United States over the years. He spoke of various laws, including the American Indian Education Act and the Tribal Law and Order Act, both aimed at improving the conditions for American Indians in the public sector.

American Indian issues are a large priority for District 4 given the large majority of Navajo in the district.

Yet, for all his efforts over the years, the attention remained on the controversies in recent months.

In September, the attorney general's office announced that it was looking into Begaye's overlapping travel expenses dating back to 2005. In October, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Begaye wrote two letters to the San Juan County Magistrate Court, both pleading for leniency for his daughter who was charged with a DWI.

Begaye declined comment about the controversy in an earlier interview.

Clahchischilliage said Tuesday she would begin visiting communities in District 4 before January, when she officially becomes a state representative.

"They showed, the people showed, that they really want change," she said. "I'm going to speak with them and listen to them."