Five look to become next Navajo Nation president

Farmington, New Mexico (AP) May 2010

Five men want to be the next president of the Navajo Nation, but only two have paid a required $1,500 filing fee.

Donald Benally, current vice president of the Nation’s Shiprock chapter, filled out his paperwork and paid the fee Tuesday in the Window Rock, Ariz. capitol of the Nation. Rex Lee Jim, a council delegate from the Rock Point, Ariz. chapter, also has paid his fee.

Three others have picked up their paperwork but haven’t paid the fee, which is due May 4. They are: Anthony Begay of Mariano Lake, N.M.; Ben Shelly, the tribe’s vice president; and Ivan Gamble, of LeChee, Ariz.

Benally was involved in the 1989 riot in Window Rock that resulted in two deaths and served 10 years in federal prison for his involvement before his release in 2003. Benally was cleared by the Navajo Nation Ethics and Rules Office to run for president because his last conviction was more than five years ago, according to his application to the Navajo Election Administration.

The Nation’s next president will take the helm from Joe Shirley Jr. and stands to inherit a 55 percent rate of unemployment in the tribe, one of the highest rates ever for the Nation.

“The main thing I want to run for is to create jobs and a stronger economy,” Benally said Friday. “I also want to improve the education system because educating our children means a better economy.”


The next president also will enter the presidency during a tumultuous time. Last fall, the legislative branch voted to remove the president and several department heads at the same time Shirley was garnering support for a vote that would reduce the Tribal Council from 88 delegates to 24.

George Hardeen, Shelly’s spokesman, said the vice president has aspired to run for president since he was elected to office. “It’s been his aspiration for a long time,” he said.

Neither Begay nor Jim could not be reached for comment.

Gamble, a small business owner who once rode his bicycle across the reservation to advocate for a Navajo constitution, is the youngest contender.

He said he will move into a hogan the day he is elected and immediately cut $2 million from the presidential spending budget.

He also plans to continue pushing for a constitution written by the people, not the politicians, and work on an economic development plan that would benefit all Navajos.

“I believe it is possible to run for office without spending a lot of money,” he said. “I believe it is the president’s duty to live in a hogan without water or electricity along with the humblest of his people, and that it is his duty to lead the people out of poverty.”

The primary election is Aug. 3 and the general election is Nov. 2. Voters must register by July 5 to vote in the primary.