Former candidate says focus is on supporting family

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FARMINGTON — Former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Chris Deschene ended speculation about his political future today.

"There is no easy way to share that I will not be filing for the presidency of the Navajo Nation during this election year," Deschene said in a statement.

"With a heavy heart, I must respectfully step aside to allow others an opportunity to plan, organize and file for this 2018 election," he said.

Deschene added that his focus remains on supporting his family.

Speculation about a potential run increased after Deschene spoke at voter education events organized by the Navajo Voters Coalition Inc. in Flagstaff, Arizona, and in Shiprock last month.

Deschene expressed appreciation to the coalition, its supporters and those who supported his presidential campaign in 2014 for making a difference on the Navajo Nation.

"Please never stop holding our leaders and government accountable. I do hope you continue to participate in the forthcoming tribal, local, state and federal elections," he said.

Deschene finished second in the primary election on Aug. 26, 2014, and was set to face former President Joe Shirley Jr. in the general election.

His candidacy ended when the Navajo Nation Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Office of Hearings and Appeals that determined he did not meet the qualifications for office.

Deschene's candidacy was called into question by former presidential candidates Dale E. Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne, both of whom filed grievances that accused Deschene of lying on candidacy paperwork about his ability to speak the Navajo language fluently.

A special election for the tribal presidency was eventually held on April 21, 2015.

Voters approved a referendum to change the language qualifications for presidential candidates in July 2015.

The election this year is the first under the amended qualifications.

In addition to the presidential office, the election will determine who will serve on the Navajo Nation Council, the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors, the Navajo Nation Board of Education, the Naschitti Community Governance and the Kayenta Township Commission.

Those who have filed paperwork for the presidency as of today are Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, Emily Ellison from the Chichiltah Chapter, Nicholas Taylor from the Klagetoh Chapter, the Tom Tso from Teec Nos Pos Chapter and Dineh Benally and Tom Chee, both from the Shiprock Chapter, according to the Navajo Election Administration.

The filing period for all positions closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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