ELECTION 2014: Educator and former delegate want to represent five Northern Agency chapters

James Fenton
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Educator Steven S. Benally and former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred are competing for an open council delegate seat to represent five Northern Agency chapters.

The winner of the seat will represent Arizona's Mexican Water, Sweetwater-Tólikan and Teec Nos Pos and Utah's Aneth and Red Mesa. The chapters were previously represented by Kenneth Maryboy, who did not run for the seat and instead vied for the presidency in the primary election. Benally, of Tólikan, is entering politics for the first time in his life. In the Aug. 26 primary election, he finished second, garnering 437 votes. Filfred, of Aneth, came in first and received 876 votes.

In January, Benally, 55, quit his job as a human resources director at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint to campaign full-time. He said his leap into politics stems from seeing relatives' needs change as they age.

"My interests in wanting to pursue this is due to I see my parents, uncles, people I know, getting up there in age, and they're needing some kind of assistance to help them along, and I am a grandfather and I question, ‘What do we have in place for them? Do we have their future in mind?'" Benally said. "All of these concerns brought me to put my hat in the poll, if you will based on our Navajo ways."

Benally said his campaign is based on positive leadership, teamwork and strong relationships — traits rooted in Navajo culture, he said.

Filfred, who lives in Red Mesa, said he is running on a general platform that encompasses health, education and veterans' issues. His campaign is informed, in part, by his time serving on the council's Health and Social Services Committee.

“Right now, the main dish on my plate is health, and the project, the Indian Self-Determination (and Education Assistance) Act,” Filfred said.

“Looking out for the mental health and the well-being of my people of the nation. ‘For the people and by the people,' that's been my slogan. I say to people, 'I speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.'”

Benally said he plans to address barriers that hinder progress for the Nation's northern most chapter.

"I will address barriers that hinder progress on what our communities need — roads, housing, the elderly," he said. "They are all very clear needs that are out there, but what is it that hinders progress on those problems? It all has to do with accountability."

Filfred said his experience makes him a stronger candidate. In addition to serving as a delegate, he has combat experience in the U.S. Marine Corps in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf and worked in law enforcement.

"I have big ideas and a lot of support from people," he said.