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As Joe Biden announced presidential race winner, San Juan County residents say it's not over

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — Even as various news organizations reported that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the presidential election, some San Juan County Republicans wanted to wait until all the votes were counted or even until Dec. 14 when the electoral college meets.

"I think this is far from over," said Drew Degner, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Juan County.

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He pointed out that the electoral college rather than the popular vote decides the president and also emphasized that there are still ballots to be counted.

Republicans watch election results come in, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at No Worries Sports Bar and Grill in Farmington.

"I think every vote should count and we need to count every legal vote," he said.

This message was echoed by Heather Curtis, the president of Four Corners Federated Republican Women. But as she waited, Curtis' overall message was one of unity and support for whatever the ultimate outcome is.

"If this was a fair and legal election, then Republicans stand behind the seat of the presidency," she said.

She said she was okay with the results because "either way we all move forward."

San Juan County Republicans weigh in: 'I think this is far from over'

On Nov. 3, some Republicans at a watch party expressed concerns about what the election could mean to the San Juan Basin. While Biden has said he does not support a ban on fracking, he has said he would end new oil and gas leases on federal lands. The majority of the current leases in the San Juan Basin are on federal lands and the basin has a large number of wells that are reaching the end of their lives. 

Republican Party of San Juan County Chairman Drew Degner speaks, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at an election watch party at No Worries Sports Bar and Grill in Farmington.

Degner remains concerned about the economic impacts of a Biden presidency. Both the county and the state rely heavily on the oil and gas industries.

However, he said he will be less concerned if the Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate.

"Voting has consequences and everybody needs to get out and vote," he said. "And if that's the direction that the country wants to go, then we gear up for the next election in four years."

Democrats hope for peaceful transfer of power, healing of political divide

Damian Artalejo, the interim chairperson of the San Juan County Democratic Party, said he felt relieved when he saw the states trending toward a Biden presidency and he was happy to see the results indicate Biden was the winner. But at the same time he had concerns for how the upcoming months will transpire.

“I also hope that the results will be respected and the transfer of power from (President Donald) Trump to Biden will be peaceful,” he said.

He said he hopes a Biden presidency will lead to decreased political polarization and he said the nation could have become more divided if Trump had won a second term.

Artalejo said Republicans should feel encouraged that Biden has said he will be a president for all the United States and not just for one political party.

Artalejo encouraged people to work to overcome political differences.

"Be open minded," he said. "Everyone has differences and different beliefs. But we can’t begin to work together as a country or as a whole until people are willing to overcome these political differences and talk to one another."

Navajo leaders commend win, look forward to building relations

Meanwhile, leaders on the Navajo Nation congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in statements on Nov. 7.

"The people have spoken, and change is coming to America. Now that the hard-fought campaign and election have passed, we have to come together, heal and unite to move tribal nations and the country forward on a positive path," tribal President Jonathan Nez said.

Nez also recognized the impact voters from Indian Country had on the presidential election in swing states, like Arizona, and about meeting then-candidates Biden and Harris last month in Phoenix.

"In October, I had the opportunity to meet face to face with Biden and Harris to talk about the Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations and we were assured that tribal nations would always have a seat at the table. The Navajo Nation now looks forward to working together with the Biden-Harris administration to put that plan into action," Nez said.

At left, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez talks with then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris during a meeting with Arizona tribal leaders on Oct. 8 in Phoenix.

The Biden-Harris plan includes reinstating the White House Tribal Nations Conference, appointing Native Americans to high-level positions in federal government and promoting meaningful consultation with tribes.

First lady Phefelia Herbert-Nez said she looks forward to working further with Jill Biden, whose advocacy for cancer patients helped bring the first cancer treatment center on the reservation in Tuba City, Arizona.

Speaker Seth Damon extended an invitation to the new administration to visit the Navajo Nation and "begin charting a steady path forward."

"The Navajo Nation recognizes the positive developments made over past administrations relating to tribal sovereignty, and we look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to further the policy changes and legislative priorities that will strengthen tribal self-governance," Damon said.

Reporter Noel Lyn Smith contributed to this report.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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