Voters back Nez, Shirley in Navajo Nation presidential race
Current vice president will face former president in November
FARMINGTON — Two veteran Navajo Nation politicians will advance as presidential candidates in the tribe's Nov. 6 general election after finishing first and second in the primary election on Tuesday.
Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez received 14,105 votes, followed by former tribal president Joe Shirley Jr. with 6,947 votes, according to the unofficial results of the primary election.
"It's a humbling thing that happened tonight. There was overwhelming support from the Navajo people," Nez said in an interview after arriving to his campaign party at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Window Rock, Arizona.
Nez, who also has served three terms on the Navajo Nation Council, jumped to an early lead as returns started coming in and never trailed.
The unofficial results showed Nez receiving the most votes in the Northern, Eastern, Fort Defiance and Western agencies.
Shirley topped the number of votes in the Chinle Agency, where he has been a lifelong resident of Chinle, Arizona.
In vying for the presidency, Shirley finds himself in a familiar place. He served as tribal president from 2003 to 2011 and finished behind President Russell Begaye in a special election for the presidency in April 2015.
"It's not about coming in No. 1 or No. 2 for primaries, it's just about making it," Shirley said in an interview after congratulating Nez inside the Window Rock Sports Center Tuesday night.
Incumbent Begaye finished in fifth place with 3,883 votes.
Mihio Manus, spokesman for the president's office, said Wednesday that Begaye had no comment about the election outcome.
The presidential race drew 18 contenders who varied by gender, age, profession and political experience.
Hundreds of people gathered inside the sports center Tuesday night to watch the returns for the presidency, and races for Navajo Nation Council and agency and local offices.
With Nez taking an early lead, attention turned to who would be the runner-up, which was a close race between Shirley and Tom Chee.
Approximately 500 votes separated the two men throughout the evening. Chee eventually finished third with 6,411 votes.
Chee said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he will not seek a recount.
"Mainly because I don't want to put the election process in question again," he said referring to the legal appeals and court challenges made to a presidential candidate's qualification that hampered the election process in 2014, leading to a seven-month delay.
The Navajo Election Code allows candidates to request a ballot recount, but they must pay a $50 fee within 10 days after the election.
Chee said his decision not to request a recount will ease voters' minds.
Overall, he appreciates the response to his campaign platforms, and he is open to connecting with Nez and Shirley.
Edbert Little, executive director for the Navajo Election Administration, said ballots cast for absentee and early voting will be added this week to the unofficial results reported on Tuesday evening.
The results remain unofficial until certification by the Navajo Board of Election Supervisors following a 10-day grievance period, which started today.
Unofficial results from the primary election
Navajo Nation president
Jonathan Nez – 14,105 votes
Joe Shirley Jr. – 6,947 votes
Tom Chee – 6,411 votes
Dineh Benally – 5,211 votes
Russell Begaye – 3,883 votes
Tom Tso – 3,415 votes
Hope MacDonald Lonetree – 2,368 votes
Alton Joe Shepherd – 1,767 votes
Emily Ellison – 1,237 votes
Calvin Lee Jr. – 1,200 votes
Rex Lee Jim – 956 votes
Shawn Redd – 496 votes
Norman Patrick Brown – 399 votes
Nick X. Taylor – 389 votes
Trudie Jackson – 233 votes
Vincent H. Yazzie – 166 votes
Benny Bahe – 161 votes
Kevin Cody – 126 votes
Navajo Nation Council
• Shiprock Chapter
Eugenia Charles-Newton – 528 votes
Vern R. Lee – 447 votes
Nevina D. Kinlahcheeny – 419 votes
Dan Smith – 312 votes
Cheryl George – 169 votes
Marian John – 157 votes
• Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tsé Daa K'aan and Upper Fruitland chapters
Rickie Nez – 1,438 votes
Matthew Tso – 903 votes
• Beclabito, Cove, Gadii'ahi-Tokoi, Red Valley, Toadlena-Two Grey Hills, Tooh Haltsooí and Tsé Alnaozt'i'í chapters
Amber Kanazbah Crotty – 1,631 votes
Irvin Tyler – 550 votes
Lee J. Zhonnie – 502 votes
• Aneth, Mexican Water, Red Mesa, Teec Nos Pos and Tólikan chapters
Charlaine Tso – 671 votes
Davis Filfred – 544 votes
Herman Farley – 490 votes
David L. John – 378 votes
Navajo Board of Election Supervisors – Northern Agency
Watona Kellywood – 7,386 votes
Navajo Nation Board of Education – Northern Agency
Freda K. Nells – 5,954 votes
Jeanne Haskie – 2,719 votes
Special Election – Tsé Daa K'aan Chapter President
James Pioche – 260 votes
Paul J. George – 257 votes
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.