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FARMINGTON — Former state representative Ray Begaye and longtime educator Tom Chee are facing each other to represent the Shiprock Chapter on the Navajo Nation Council.

Incumbent Russell Begaye did not seek re-election for the seat, instead making a bid for the tribal presidency.

Ray Begaye represented San Juan County in New Mexico's House of Representatives from 1999 to 2013 and is now looking to serve on the council.

If elected, Begaye said one of his priorities would be continuing to amend Navajo law to return more authority to the Navajo people.

He would also use his state government experience to strengthen the relationship between the states and tribal governments.

"I'm excited about moving forward," he said.

Begaye is Kinlichii'nii (The Red House People Clan), born for Bit'ahnii (Under His Cover Clan). His maternal grandfather is Táchii' nii (Red Running Into the Water People Clan) and his paternal grandfather is ‘Áshiihíí (Salt People Clan).

He was born and raised in Shiprock, graduated from Shiprock High School and earned a bachelor's degree in education from Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.

Part of Chee's campaign is focusing on reducing the barriers that prevent Shiprock from utilizing its economic development potential.

If elected, he would like to reduce tribal and federal regulations that he says impede the growth and economic development of tribal communities.

“That's going to be one of the wheels to be set in motion,” he said.

Chee also said he would focus on water rights and the concern that Shiprock residents will not receive their share of water usage because of aging infrastructure.

Miles of irrigation ditches and canals need to be repaired and updated, he said.

Chee is Hashk'aa hadzohí (Yucca Fruit-Strung-Out-In-A-Line Clan), born for Tl'ááshchí'i (Red Cheek People Clan). His maternal grandfather clan is Naakai dine'é (Mexican Clan), and his paternal grandfather clan is Tó'aheedlííníí (The Water Flow Together Clan).

He earned a bachelor's degree in religious studies from Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and a bachelor's degree in bicultural studies from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.

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