Filing period for tribe's primary election closes with 15 registering for Navajo president

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona — Campaign season has started on the Navajo Nation now that the filing period for the primary election closed on May 4 with 15 individuals submitting applications for the tribal presidency.

"This is my second time at running for Navajo Nation president," Kevin Cody said after visiting Navajo Election Administration staff at the Navajo Nation Museum, where candidate forms were accepted on the final day.

"There's a lot of issues that we faced, and the past two years have been very difficult for our people," Cody, of Piñon Chapter, said, adding that he has spent the time since the 2018 election learning more about the tribal government and issues in chapter areas.

Cody explained that his campaign platform focuses on public safety, education and medical services under the Indian Health Service.

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At left, Arbin Mitchell reviews his photo taken by Vera Morgan, program and project specialist with the Navajo Election Administration, on May 4, which was the last day individuals can file candidacy forms for the Navajo Nation primary election at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

"But I do guarantee change. That's one thing that I can say is that I guarantee change," he said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, of Shonto Chapter, announced his reelection campaign on April 23 and filed his candidate form on April 26.

Also filing for the presidency were Greg H. Bigman of Teec Nos Pos Chapter, Dineh Benally of Shiprock Chapter, Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch of Chinle Chapter, Earl L. Sombrero of Ts'ah bii Kin Chapter, Justin Jones of Rock Point Chapter, Frank Dayish of Shiprock Chapter, Leslie M. Tsosie of Tsé 'íí'áhí Chapter, Ethel Billie Branch of Leupp Chapter, Frankie Davis of Pueblo Pintado Chapter, Emily Ellison of Chichiltah Chapter, Buu Nygren of Red Mesa Chapter, Sandra Jeff of Tóhajiilee Chapter, and Dolly Manson of Hardrock Chapter.

Several candidates' names might be familiar to voters.

Dayish served as vice president to former President Joe Shirley Jr. from 2003 to 2007 while Nygren was Shirley's running mate in 2018.

Bigman is president of the Diné College Board of Regents, Jones is an attorney in Farmington, Branch served as attorney general under the Russell Begaye administration, Davis manages the Diné Allottee Association, and Jeff is a former New Mexico state representative.

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Titus J. Nez listens to instructions while filing his candidacy form on May 4 for the Navajo Nation Council to represent Church Rock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake and Thoreau chapters.

Benally became the focus of civil and criminal complaints in 2020 when he set up operations that allegedly grew hemp and cannabis in the Shiprock area.

There is a criminal case against Benally still pending in tribal court, according to Charlie Galbraith, the special counsel handling the tribe's civil case against Benally.

"The civil matter is effectively resolved, we are just waiting for the court to accept the final agreement of the parties to make the injunction permanent," Galbraith said on May 9 in response to a request on the status of the cases.

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In addition to the presidency, the election this year will determine the Navajo Nation Council, Navajo Board of Election Supervisors, Navajo Board of Education and other offices.

The unofficial candidate list was released on May 5 by the election administration, which reviews, verifies and determines qualifications for candidates based on the applications before issuing an official candidate list.

The primary election is Aug. 2.

Former president files for Navajo Nation Council

Each of the Navajo Nation Council delegates from the Northern Agency are running for reelection and have challengers.

Eugenia Charles-Newton is seeking a second term to represent Shiprock Chapter.

Those who also filed for the seat are former tribal President Russell Begaye along with Dan Smith Sr., Debra A. Yazzie, Richard T. Begaye and J. Kaibah Begay.

Amber Kanazbah Crotty is seeking another term as delegate for Beclabito, Cove, Gadii'ahi-Tokoi, Red Valley, Toadlena-Two Grey Hills, Tooh Haltsooí and Tsé Alnaozt'i'í chapters.

Crotty faces a challenge by Lindsey Leighann Benally.

Marcy Yazzie, voter registration specialist with the Navajo Election Administration's Chinle Agency office, helps a candidate file forms for the Navajo Nation primary election on May 4 at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

In a repeat of the election in 2018, incumbent Rick Nez and Matthew D. Tso have filed to represent Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tsé Daa K'aan and Upper Fruitland chapters.

Charlaine Tso faces challenges from Eleanor Smith, Davis Filfred, Verma Y. Francisco, Robert Redhouse and Curtis Yanito to represent Aneth, Mexican Water, Red Mesa, Teec Nos Pos and Tólikan chapters.

Other offices in the Northern Agency are the Navajo Board of Education with one candidate, Freda K. Nells, and the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors with incumbent Watona Kellywood and challenger William Lee.

Overall, 22 out of the 24 council delegates are seeking reelection.

Speaker Seth Damon is the only one without a challenger. He represents Bááháálí, Chichiltah, Manuelito, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh and Tsé Lichíí chapters.

Navajo Board of Election Supervisors Chairperson Melvin Harrison, right, helps Lee Jack Sr. on May 4 file his candidacy form for the Navajo Nation Council to represent Dilkon, Greasewood Springs, Indian Wells, Teesto and White Cone chapters.

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

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