Window Rock — The endorsement battle continued Aug. 22 as Fred DuVal received the endorsement of grocery chain owner Eddie Basha for Congressional District One.
Basha made stops in Window Rock, Chinle and Tuba City with DuVal to emphasize his support for the former aide to Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt.
The Basha endorsement comes less than a week after former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald endorsed George Cordova and former Navajo President Peterson Zah endorsed Derek Watchman, the only Navajo candidate in the race.
Also on Aug. 22, candidate Roger Hartstone announced that he is happier to have the endorsements of Native American unions. Hartstone emphasized that he is more concerned about the rank and file votes then big name endorsements.
DuVal, Cordova, Watchman and Hartstone are four of seven Democrats competing in the primary for the district that includes the portion of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. The winner will face the Republican and Libertarian primary winners.
Basha said he respects MacDonald and wrote letters to Clinton asking for the former chairman’s release from prison, but feels he could have swayed him to support DuVal if he had got to him before somebody else. Basha added that Zah is an honorable man and his support of DuVal in no way demeans Watchman.
“We just want to talk to Navajos who are not committed,” he said. “People are very personable and receptive. We have a lot of friends and this opened the doors. We’re capitalizing on the friends we’ve made in the last 21 years.”
Hartstone has received the support of the United Mine Workers of America from the Kayenta Mine including its president, Eugene Badonie. Hartstone has also gained the support of Boilermakers Local No. 4 from Page including its Business Manager Nate Begay.
“The folks at the Kayenta Mine said I was the only candidate to visit them to discuss water, slurry lines and the future of their jobs,” he said.
Hartstone said it’s more important to involve students at Monument Valley High School in the electoral process and the future of building communities rather than bringing in Phoenicians to merely draw attention to a candidate.
“Our work has been to involve children and working age men and women, and elders so we can use their vision for building community centers and after-school programs rather than supporting off-reservation economic interests,” he said.
Hartstone said his emphasis is developing businesses and jobs for the people in Kayenta, Window Rock and Tuba City. He said this is the way to serve today and tomorrow’s generations.
“It has been my privilege to bring holiday meals to Tuba City families rather than empty promises that the people have heard before,” he said.
Hartstone praised the opening this summer of the Hozhoni Training Center in Page.
“This brings training, skills and high paying jobs to the Navajo people,” he said. “Endorsements in our campaign are always important when they mean improving the lives of the people we serve, especially when they are real jobs at real high wages.”
DuVal said Basha’s support was special to him because Basha has been a longtime friend. He added that he hopes voters make up their minds based on the abilities of the candidates rather than the endorsements.
“But endorsements say that people who can be trusted trust the candidate,” he said. “We also share the same concerns about health care, education and economic development.”
Basha agreed that the two are concerned about the same issues, particularly health care.
“It’s a cardinal sin that millions of people don’t have access to health care. It should be illegal. Why we can’t address this in a compassionate way, I don’t know,” he said. “If we don’t ensure health care and education, then we’ll lose the economy.”
Basha called DuVal a moral candidate with vision who has invaluable experience.
“He has dealt with the BIA and we need him to come to the plate and speak out for the tribes,” Basha said. “Native Americans should get the amenities that other people receive, but they don’t.”
DuVal said Basha and the Navajo people have a relationship of mutual respect.
“Eddie loves the Navajo people, and the Navajo people love him,” he said.
Basha added that while he isn’t sure how much an endorsement means that if he can help DuVal that he wants to do so.
DuVal said he met Basha some years ago through his late stepfather Jack Whiteman. They later worked on issues together when DuVal was an assistant to Bruce Babbitt and Basha served on the Arizona Board of Regents.
DuVal said that they were warmly received by the Navajo Tribal Council when they stopped at the council chambers.
“People were aware of my name, and they were glad to put a face with it,” he said. “They learned where I stand on the issues.”
DuVal said his top concern is health care, both on and off the reservation. He said solving the health care problems on and off the reservation will take different approaches but the same kind of vigor.
DuVal said he will actively seek more funding for Indian Health Services. He emphasized that as a senior officer at the White House during President Clinton’s administration that he knows the importance of improving funding for IHS, Bureau of Indian Affairs, housing and education.
He said funding for Indian programs were always challenged at the end of the budget process.
“And we always held our ground,” he said.
DuVal said this is his fifth or sixth visit during this campaign, but that he had worked with the Navajo Nation many times while he was serving as an aide to then-Gov. Babbitt.
DuVal praised Watchman as a fine person and a good candidate who has a strong political future. He emphasized that he understands many Navajos will vote for Watchman, but DuVal feels he is the most experienced of any of the candidates.
Basha echoed the words that Watchman is a wonderful man, but lacks DuVal’s experience.
DuVal said none of the other candidates have his experience working for the federal government, so he is the only one who can hit the ground running after election day.
“The neglect on the reservation has been so profound that this district can’t wait for a congressman to get up to speed,” he said.
DuVal said while Hartstone has more experience than Cordova that neither one has his experience with the federal government.