Russell Begaye to replace Deschene on ballot, election rescheduled for Dec. 23

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation will put on a special election in late December, which will be used to fill a new vice presidential candidate's seat on the Navajo Nation Council and decide the presidential election.

This time Chris Deschene's name will not be on the ballot and Council Delegate Russell Begaye's will be included. Begaye finished third place in the primary election and with Deschene removed from the ballot after a controversy surrounding his Navajo language proficiency, he will now face former president Joe Shirley in the postponed presidential election Dec. 23.

Begaye chose his vice presidential candidate, Council Delegate Jonathan Nez, on Nov. 5. Nez represents Navajo Mountain, Oljato, Shonto, and Ts'ah Bii KinChapters.

Nez is from from Shonto, Arizona. He is born into the Salt People Clan and born for the Tangle Clan. His maternal grandfathers are Bitter Water Clan and his paternal grandfathers are Red-Running-Into-The-Water Clan.

Nez said in a statement that he had prayed and consulted with his family before accepting the nomination.

"I accept this incredible opportunity because I believe our Navajo people are ready for solutions rooted in healing and compassion for one another," Nez said.

Nez served as chairman and vice chairman of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors in 2012 and 2013. He currently serves as the vice chairman of the Navajo Nation Council's Budget and Finance Committee. He also serves as a supervisor for Navajo County District 1.

Begaye said Nez worked hard to complete a master's degree from Northern Arizona University and his education was important. He has a bachelor's degree in political science and his master's degree is in public administration.

"I am pleased to have Jonathan Nez as my running mate," he said. "Few people know that he was one of the youngest people to be selected as a council delegate, but he qualified himself to be a Naat'annii."

Navajo Nation Supreme Court

The court released its opinion on the removal of Deschene from the presidential ballot.

The court clarified that Deschene was not disqualified for not meeting the qualification which requires that a presidential candidate "must fluently speak and understand Navajo."

"Deschene was actually disqualified by default judgment for filing a candidacy application with a false statement as to his qualifications," the opinion said.

The court also said the Navajo Nation Council's action to change the language requirements was meant to fix Deschene's false statement. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly vetoed the council action.

A special council session is scheduled for Nov. 13 and 14. On the agenda is a petition to override the president's veto of the amended language legislation. Because there are two vacant seats on the council, and an override takes a two-thirds vote, 12 votes are necessary to override the veto.

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