By Ally Rael / NM News Port /
Not to be overlooked in Tuesday’s midterm madness, the Navajo Nation held a presidential election that resulted in Jonathan Nez being elected the nation’s 9th president. Nez, and his running mate Myron Lizer, won by a large margin — 66 to 34 percent — over opponent Joe Shirley, and running mate Buu Van Nygren.
At the end of the night, Nez finished with a total of 39,783 votes. Shirley finished with 20,146 votes. With his election, Nez is the youngest president of the Navajo Nation. Nez is 43.
The Nation was due for an election, given the coming end of President Russell Begaye’s term. Begaye has been President since 2015 with Nez serving as Vice-President. In the months leading up to the election, Nez used his good standing with the people of the Navajo Nation to gain support within the various communities.
The Navajo Nation is spread between New Mexico, Arizona and Utah with a population of 173,600 people. Almost 58 percent of eligible Navajos cast ballots in this year’s election.
While Shirley is well known, having previously served as president for two consecutive terms, the Nation was apparently ready for a fresh perspective on what is best for the Navajo people.
Nez is an experienced politician within the Navajo Nation, serving on the Nation Council for three terms and as vice president since 2015 under Begaye.
President-elect Nez built his campaign on being an advocate for Navajo people, aiming his focus on improving the communication with the central government in Window Rock, Ariz., in order to ultimately better the health care of the Navajo Tribe. Nez has described his campaign as a grassroots mission to come together as a community.
“It feels great. I see that the Navajo people have spoken — overwhelmingly — for change, and that’s what this campaign is all about,” Nez told Noel Lyn Smith of the Farmington Daily Times.
Shirley’s loss seemed to come as a shock to the candidate. He was reportedly optimistic when the poll numbers began to be counted, but that soon changed as the numbers favored Nez and Lizer.
“Yes, it does not feel good but I have been here before & I know it will pass,” Shirley posted on Facebook in regards to the election.
“Let’s continue to fight the good fight on behalf of our families, our communities, our Nation, & our culture & way of life,” Shirley posted.
Nez and Lizer will serve a four year term. Nez has emphasized focusing on key issues such as improving healthcare, education and the Navajo economy.
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