Nez picks Chad Abeyta as running mate
Candidate Jonathan Nez selected Air Force veteran Chad Abeyta as his running mate.
Nez made his announcement on Monday at Veterans Memorial Park in front of staff and family. Vice President Myron Lizer was not present.
Abeyta, 33, from Alamo, New Mexico, is Tó baazhní’ázhí, born for Chishí. His maternal grandfathers are Kiis’aanii and his paternal grandfathers are Tłʼááshchíʼí.
He accepted the nomination with his wife Paulene and their children by his side. His parents, Cecil and Cecelia Abeyta, were also present.
Abeyta grew up traditionally in Alamo and in the Native American Church. Along with those teachings, he grew up with his parent’s teachings.
“To this day, those are the teachings I live by,” he said on Monday. “My family has raised me to also respect all faiths.”
Abeyta said his father served the Navajo Nation as a Navajo Police officer for 25 years.
“You’ve taught me bravery,” he said to his father.
And to his mother, he said, “And mom, you’ve taught me culture, the Navajo language, and love. Thank you.”
Abeyta told the crowd he and his wife made a commitment to help the Navajo people when they met 12 years ago.
“I remember we made a commitment to help our people, to get our education and come back and serve you all,” he said. “I appreciate that. My wife appreciates your support, your love – it makes me happy.”
Abeyta said he told his mother the news when they were at Fort Benning, Georgia, visiting his brother, who is in the Army.
“When I got the news, I reached out to my mom,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, you need to come back because there’s a potential that I might be a candidate for vice president.’”
‘I’m a veteran, too’
Abeyta said he appreciated that Nez made the announcement at the veteran’s park.
“I’m a veteran too,” he said. “It’s important for us because we value and honor our veterans to a high degree because they’ve committed their time and effort into the United States military.”
Abyeta served four years in the U.S. Air Force and did three tours overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Unified Protector.
After his service, he enrolled at the University of New Mexico where he received both his bachelor’s degree and his juris doctorate.
He said he followed his wife to the University of Arizona in Tucson where he graduated with master’s of law in Indigenous people’s law and policy.
Abeyta shared an anecdote while at UNM in Albuquerque.
“I remember being an undergrad,” he said. “President Nez, I think he was the vice president at that time, he was speaking to young Navajo people, encouraged the younger – us – generation, to come back and serve our people after we get our degree.
“So, that stuck with me this whole time and it still continues today,” he said.
Abeyta said, if elected, he would bring leadership skills and critical thinking to the Nez team and creative solutions.
Abeyta’s wife, who is from To’Hajiilee, New Mexico, reiterated her husband and added that her tenure as a To’Hajiilee Community School board member was inspired by their children.
She wanted to ensure their children, as well as the other children “have services, resources, and the best possible education that our Navajo schools can provide.”
Proud of her husband
Paulene, who works at the Navajo Department of Justice as an attorney, added how proud she was of her husband.
“I’m proud today of my husband, a U.S. Air Force veteran, a first-generation law graduate,” she said. “Thank you for being a magnificent human being.
“I have no doubt that President Nez and first lady (Phefelia Nez) have made the best decision bringing you on board,” she said.
Paulene Abeyta highlighted her husband’s attributes and said his work ethic would no doubt serve the Navajo people, if he becomes their next vice president.
“You’re the type of man who helps people,” she said. “This is where you’re supposed to be. You’ve proven that by getting your education and coming home right away.
“I know you’re going to be a fantastic vice president for our Nation,” she said.
Nez said the campaign team prayed about the decision before choosing Abeyta.
“We wanted to get someone that has the same desire, the heart, for the Navajo people,” he said.
Before choosing Abeyta, Nez said there were many recommendations. Ultimately, he said they chose a young candidate.
“At the end of the day, the future is our younger generation, our young professionals,” he said. “I’ll term out. If we are successful in this election, who’s going to carry that mantle? It’s the vision that our past leaders have had.”
Nez said he’s known the Abeyta family for many years and added Chad and Paulene were “already accomplished.”
“They have a lot of experience at the very start of their careers,” Nez said. “We don’t have to teach them about government. They know government.”
He highlighted that his vice-president candidate worked at the legislative branch while his wife worked at the Navajo Department of Justice.
“They know government,” he said, “they know what the Navajo people are going through.”
Nez added it was time to welcome back the younger generation.
“I hope this proves that the Nez team is open to change and open to bringing our young professionals home to help build our Nation,” he said. “It’s all about Nation building, and we have a great team.”
When he won in 2018, Nez said his administration was prepared to begin with the input they gathered from communities and the Navajo people. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We may have slowed down on our plans, but a lot of the items that are in our plans have been checked off,” Nez said.
Nez emphasized the Nez-Lizer administration has succeeded, highlighting a new veterans nursing home in the works in Chinle, and a future rehab center that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act legislation that he recently signed into law.
He added that a housing and manufacturing facility were also included in the ARPA package.
If they are re-elected, he said the focus would be to continue checking off the ongoing projects the current administration and his staff are working on.
“The focus is really to build these projects and make sure they are done. The money’s there,” he said. “And that’s where the young people come in, like the Abeyta’s.
‘Now’s the time’
“They came home and I want to challenge our young professionals,” he said. “Now’s the time.
“We have one billion dollars of money for projects,” he said. “And so, there’s jobs – no more excuse of no jobs. There’s going to be jobs here, and there’s going to be our young professionals. I challenge our young people to come home – now’s the time.”
Nez said he spoke to his current vice president, Myron Lizer, and told him the future is going to be a lot different.
“It’s that younger generation,” he said. “Like I said, I’m four years older, so I’m not the youngest anymore. To allow a younger professional to sit as the vice president, it’d be a great opportunity for the next generation.
“I think the next four years, the younger generation will be in control of the government,” he said. “Right now, I think it’s still the elders are there, but at the end of the day, I think people are going to be appreciative of this pick.”
Nez thanked the 13 other candidates who had “some great ideas.”
“I’m sure some of us will incorporate some of those ideas into our campaign,” he said.
He added that many of the candidates were young professionals who wanted to do something for their people.
Abeyta said the top three priorities as the next Navajo Nation vice president are to follow the 152-page Nahat’á plan the Nez-Lizer administration began.
The second would be to bring creative solutions to the Nez team.
“And the third thing is to support President Nez and his decisions,” he said on Monday.
Abeyta, who worked at the Office of Legislative Counsel, said he drafted the housing amendments that were passed by the Health Education & Human Services Committee.
“And that was to update the housing policies to fit the current structure,” said Abeyta.
From Eastern Agency
Nez’s opponent Buu Nygren held an announcement a couple of hours after President Nez made his. Nygren introduced Richelle Montoya, 45, from Torreon, New Mexico, as his pick for the vice-presidential candidacy.
According to the Navajo Nation election law, both candidates had five days to announce their running mates. Monday was the last day.
While they differ in many ways, both vice president candidates come from the Eastern Agency.
Montoya said she’d focus on four priorities, if she and Nygren are elected to office, which are chapters, educators, elderly and veterans.
Abeyta said the future challenges are to help the people and get the needs of people addressed. He chose not to elaborate any further and said he wanted to focus on being introduced as Nez’s running mate.
He said communication and teamwork were the two primary key components to having a successful team when it came to maintaining a healthy work environment.
Abeyta said his decision to accept the offer was not a hard decision for him and his family.
Abeyta said the Nez-Lizer administration was there for his family during their time of loss.
“What President Nez has done these past four years has done a lot for the people,” he said. “I’d like to share, too, that whenever my relatives who passed away from Covid, it was just back-to-back, a fireman who passed away. This administration helped with assistance in expeditious manner.”
The Navajo Nation General Election will be on Nov. 8.
No forums for the candidates for president or vice president have yet been announced.