House District 4 candidates focus on infrastructure
FARMINGTON — Addressing aging infrastructure in the area that encompasses state House District 4 is a focus shared by both candidates running for the seat in the upcoming election.
Incumbent Sharon Clahchischilliage, a Republican, is seeking a third term and faces a challenge by Shiprock resident GloJean Todacheene, a Democrat.
In separate interviews last week, both candidates cited infrastructure as a priority in the district that covers a portion of San Juan County and the Navajo Nation.
"Here we are in 2016 and we still have a lot of people in District 4 hauling water, not having access to gas, electricity and sewer. To me, that's a priority for quality of life," Clahchischilliage said.
She said she continues to support efforts by engineers to map the district's system of pipes and is communicating with the county and tribe about tapping into existing systems for new development.
Todacheene said she has heard from residents who have experienced broken water lines, and she is open to working with county and tribal officials to address new services.
Another issue Clahchischilliage, who is a resident of Gadii’ah, has focused on is improving response time to emergencies that occur in the district. That includes advocating for funding to install more cellphone towers since universal service is unavailable.
If infrastructure and emergency services can be upgraded, the district would be ready for economic development, Clahchischilliage added.
She supports maintaining jobs, as well as advocating for small businesses in the district.
"I feel there is a need to make sure that the small businesses in District 4 are listened to, and we need to make sure that there isn't legislation that hinders their operation," Clahchischilliage said.
This is Todacheene's first time running for a state office, and she has focused her campaign on the economy and education.
"We need something to boost the economy. … I think we need to diversify, meaning is there anything we can manufacture here," she said, adding the district has potential to build on tourism.
On the topic of education, she would like to secure more funding for early childhood education and continue encouraging parents to participate in classrooms.
Todacheene retired after 26 years with the Central Consolidated School District, where she worked as a home economics teacher, principal and administrator.
She added it is important for a state representative to be bipartisan.
"I always believe we're all in this together. We can't separate ourselves by thinking, 'This is for my community. This is for my party.' It's for all the citizens," Todacheene said.
The race for District 4 is among those being closely watched, and the candidates have gained support from high-ranking officials in both parties.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., advocated for Todacheene's win during a stop by the Democratic National Committee's Forward Together bus tour on Friday in Shiprock.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez rallied support for Clahchischilliage today in Shiprock.
Clahchischilliage is Tódík'ózhí (Salt Water Clan), born for Kinlichii'nii (Red House People Clan). Her maternal grandfather clan is Tsin sikaadnii (Clamp Tree), and her parental grandfather clan is Hashk’aa hadzohí (Yucca Fruit-Strung-Out-In-A-Line).
She comes from a family of political service, including grandfathers Deshna Clah Chischilly and Sam Ahkeah who served as tribal chairmen.
Todacheene is Honágháahnii (One Walks Around Clan) and her maternal grandfather clan is Tl'ááshchí'i (Red Bottom People). Her father is Comanche and her paternal grandfather is German.
She served two terms on the San Juan County Commission and one term representing Shiprock Chapter on the former 88-member Navajo Nation Council.
"I think that helps because I built some relationships, and I think I need to expand on that," Todacheene said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.