Joe Shirley Jr.: 'The people have spoken'

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — In a statement posted on Joe Shirley Jr.'s campaign website, the former Navajo Nation president indicates that he has accepted that "the people have spoken."

The statement was posted Friday and in it, Shirley states that he is grateful for those who supported and stood behind him in his attempt to win a third term in office.

Shirley and his running mate, Dineh Benally, were defeated in Tuesday's special election. Shirley and Benally received 15,439 votes, while Russell Begaye and his running mate, Jonathan Nez, received 25,745 votes, according to the unofficial election results.

"Dineh and I believe in the voice of the Navajo people — they have spoken. We support their call for change and offer our prayers for the new leadership that was elected," Shirley stated.

As of 8:30 p.m. Friday, the campaign had not issued an official concession announcement, despite an afternoon posting on the campaign's Facebook page indicating a concession speech would be provided "soon."

A separate Facebook posting states that, "With over 44 years of public service committed to the Navajo people, former President Joe Shirley Jr. officially ends his campaign."

It adds that Shirley has a list of accomplishments from his eight years in the president's office and he "will be known as one of the greatest Native American leaders in the United States."

"This journey has come to an end — but this is just the beginning to the rebuilding of a stronger Navajo Nation," the post states.

The online updates came a day after the Navajo Election Administration conducted a manual recount of election results from 10 chapter precincts.

On Wednesday, Shirley's campaign manager, Patrick Sandoval, requested a recount of the election results from 10 chapters in a letter addressed to Edison Wauneka, executive director of the election administration.

Sandoval requested a manual recount of the ballots from the Shiprock, Tohatchi, Sawmill, Crownpoint, LeChee, Leupp, Lukachukai, Aneth, Red Mesa and Nahatah Dziil chapters.

He wrote that he was requesting the recount "so that we may come away from this recent special presidential election with concrete knowledge that the integrity of the Navajo election process is intact."

Alray Nelson, Shirley's deputy campaign manager, said the campaign paid $500 to conduct the recount, and representatives from the campaign witnessed the recount in Window Rock, Ariz.

A candidate may request a recount within 10 days of an election and pay $50 for each chapter precinct being recounted, according to the Navajo Election Code.

Nelson said no huge discrepancies were found but both Shirley and Begaye received a number of extra votes in the Aneth Chapter.

The unofficial election results for the Aneth Chapter from Tuesday showed Shirley receiving 114 votes and Begaye receiving 305 votes. Thursday's recount showed Shirley receiving 184 votes and Begaye receiving 370 votes.

The 10 chapters were selected because Shirley received strong support from those chapters and a large number of votes during the Aug. 26 primary election, Nelson said.

"It was his (Shirley) way to provide closure as a candidate and to his supporters," Nelson said.

Alfred Bennett attended the recount on behalf of the Begaye and Nez campaign.

He said Begaye and Nez did not attend the recount because they were in a meeting regarding their transition team in Window Rock.

"The Shirley campaign had exercised their right to challenge, but the voters showed they wanted change," Bennett said, adding that he appreciated the work completed by the election administration.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.