Jonathan Nez, Buu Nygren advance for Navajo presidency - Albuquerque Journal

Jonathan Nez, Buu Nygren advance for Navajo presidency

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (Navajo Nation Office of the President)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Voters from the Navajo Nation will see familiar faces in the tribe’s general election: their current president and a former vice presidential candidate, both of whom were on the ballot in 2018.

President Jonathan Nez and Buu Nygren garnered the most votes in Tuesday’s primary among a field of 15. Whoever wins will oversee the largest Native American reservation in the U.S., and the second-highest tribal population.

Both have talked about the need for economic development and extending running water and electricity to the thousands of Navajos without it. Where they differ is on the approach to moving through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Navajo Nation once had one of the highest infection rates in the United States. Nez’s administration enacted tough measures to slow the spread. Movie theaters, restaurants, casinos and gyms still aren’t fully open yet, and a mask mandate remains.

Nez, a veteran politician, has defended the approach for keeping people safe. He said he would bring continuity in a second term, as the tribe works to spend more than $1 billion in federal virus relief funding that largely would address infrastructure.

Buu Van Nygren, candidate for president of the Navajo Nation. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

“I think the Navajo people saw that we are able to handle a difficult situation,” Nez, 47, told The Associated Press. “Not just coming from leadership but to rally the Navajo people to take care of our people, and they did an outstanding job.”

Nygren was former President Joe Shirley Jr.’s running mate in 2018. The two lost to Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.

Nygren left his job in construction management to seek the tribe’s top elected post and contends Navajo businesses are hurting because of pandemic restrictions. He said the Navajo Nation hasn’t been quick enough to respond to a huge loss of revenue from shuttered coal mines and coal-fired power plants and should capitalize on tourism. He has positioned himself as a diplomat who will bring a modern perspective to the presidency.

“It’s very clear new leadership is wanted across the Navajo Nation,” the 35-year-old told The Associated Press. “Just the amount of people who came to vote in a Navajo election where floods were happening, roads were terrible.”

Nearly 48,000 Navajos cast ballots in the tribe’s primary election — a turnout of almost 39% among more than 123,000 registered voters, according to unofficial results from the tribe’s election office. The tribe generally sees a turnout of around 50%. The results still must be certified.

Nez garnered 17,073 in the primary election, and Nygren got 12,878 votes with all 110 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. They’ll choose their own running mates for the general election in the nonpartisan race.

Rounding out the top five were attorney Justin Jones, former Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch and Greg Bigman, chairman of the Diné College Board of Regents, who collectively received nearly 14,000 votes.

Navajo voters also narrowed the list of candidates for seats on the 24-member Navajo Nation Council, ousting less than a handful of incumbents. Current Council Speaker Seth Damon is the only one who ran unopposed.

The reservation is bigger than 10 U.S. states, spanning 27,000 square miles (69,930 square kilometers) of high desert, forests, wind-swept mesas and mountains bordering New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Its population of 406,000 is second to only the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

The slate of candidates agreed more jobs are needed on the reservation where unemployment hovers around 50%. Candidates pushed platforms that included finding ways to preserve the Navajo language and pressing the federal government to fulfill its duty to provide for public safety, health and education.

Supporters of the candidates set up tents across the Navajo Nation on Tuesday, offering fry bread and other food to voters as they made a final campaign push. Election day is a social event on the Navajo Nation, though some precautions were still in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. That included closing to the public the sports center in the tribal capital of Window Rock where election results are tallied.

The others candidates were educator Dolly Mason; scholar Leslie Tsosie; Chinle Chapter President Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch; Frankie Davis; former New Mexico state legislator Sandra Jeff; Emily Ellison; former Navajo Vice President Frank Dayish; Ts’ah Bii Kin Chapter manager Earl Sombrero; and Dineh Benally and Kevin Cody, both of whom sought the tribal presidency in 2018.

Home » Around the Region » Jonathan Nez, Buu Nygren advance for Navajo presidency


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Initial dives in collapsed Mexican mine unsuccessful
Around the Region
Rescue divers' first attempts to reach ... Rescue divers' first attempts to reach 10 miners trapped inside a flooded coal mine since last week were stopped by debris-filled shafts and poor ...
2
Schammiel Kirven was 'loveable, respectful'
Around the Region
Aug. 9--CLOVIS -- Schammiel Kirven, 17, ... Aug. 9--CLOVIS -- Schammiel Kirven, 17, liked hanging out with friends, especially her cousin, Legacy Kirven, 'who was like her sister,' Pastor Daniel Murrell ...
3
Clovis mayor expresses concern about recent crimes
Around the Region
Aug. 9--Clovis mayor Mike Morris knows ... Aug. 9--Clovis mayor Mike Morris knows recent criminal activity in the city such as shots fired incidents, shooting deaths and more are 'alarming' and ...
4
Report: Longterm Portales water supply 'looks promising'
Around the Region
Aug. 9--According to a recent report, ... Aug. 9--According to a recent report, the longterm water supply for the city of Portales 'looks promising.' However, the city's water supply until the ...
5
Joe Arpaio loses 3rd comeback bid in town mayoral ...
Around the Region
Joe Arpaio, the 90-year-old former Arizona ... Joe Arpaio, the 90-year-old former Arizona sheriff who was a once powerful figure in Republican politics but was ousted nearly six years ago amid ...
6
Remains found Saturday at Lake Mead may be from ...
Around the Region
Human remains found at Lake Mead ... Human remains found at Lake Mead National Recreation Area last weekend may actually be from the same set of bones discovered 12 days earlier, ...
7
Sheriff's deputy and woman killed in Colorado home shooting
Around the Region
A woman and a sheriff's deputy ... A woman and a sheriff's deputy were fatally shot at a home in southern Colorado over the weekend and the suspected gunman was later ...
8
Man arrested in death of Navajo woman; remains found ...
Around the Region
A Pinon man has been arrested ... A Pinon man has been arrested in connection with the death of a Navajo woman who was reported missing in 2019, according to authorities. ...
9
Clovis Community College president placed on administrative leave
Around the Region
Aug. 6--CLOVIS -- The president of ... Aug. 6--CLOVIS -- The president of Clovis Community College was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday by the college's board of trustees. Charles Nwankwo ...