Candidates spar over government reform

(Times photo - Donovan Quintero)

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

PIÑON, Ariz., May 29, 2014

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(Times photos - Donovan Quintero

Top to bottom: Navajo Nation president Ben Shelley addresses his challengers. Individual images, top to bottom: Navajo Nation president Ben Shelley, Chris Deschene, Dale E. Tsosie, Donald Benally,Duane Yazzie, Kenneth Maryboy, Myron McLaughlin, Russell Begaye.

Voters hoping to discern differences between the 10 official Navajo Nation presidential candidates got their wish Tuesday night at the first of six candidate forums.

(Times video - Donovan Quintero)

Video excerpt from this week's Navajo Nation presidential candidates' forum.

The eight candidates who attended the forum exhibited a broad spectrum of views on the evening's topic of government reform, ranging from more input from the populace (Russell Begaye, Myron McLaughlin and Christopher Deschene) to scrapping the existing structure and starting over (Duane "Chili" Yazzie).


View the list of official candidates currently certified for the Navajo Nation election this summer. (PDF, requires the free Adobe Reader.)

Absent from the forum were candidates Joe Shirley Jr. and Edison Wauneka. Wauneka did not return a message asking why he did not attend.

Shirley's campaign manager, Patrick Sandoval, said the Shirley campaign "made a conscious decision not to attend any forums until after the filing deadline."
"We want to make sure that the people are all official candidates," he said. "This one came quite a bit early. We will be attending the other forums."
The filing deadline was Wednesday.

Incumbent Ben Shelly appeared to become frustrated with the other candidates on several occasions, telling them their suggestions had already been tried and gone nowhere.

"We done that!" he said multiple times when it was his turn to speak. Shelly even questioned why the other candidates were there at all.

Moderator James MacKenzie from the Diné Policy Institute had to remind him of a rule against verbally attacking the other candidates.

Most of the candidates spoke mostly in Navajo, with Deschene apologizing that he did not know the language well enough to express his opinions in it and promising to learn it better as his campaign progressed.


The primary election, which will pare the candidates down to two, is scheduled for Aug. 26.

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