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Navajo presidential candidate to dispute removal from ballot

Supporters of Navajo Nation presidential candidate Chris Deschene rally outside hearing on Thursday. Photo from Facebook

Chris Deschene, a candidate for president of the Navajo Nation, will continue to fight after a hearings officer disqualified him on Thursday.

Deschene disputed a Navajo language test that was given to a candidate for the first time in tribal history. He refused to answer questions and said he was being unfairly targeted.

"I was, and I remain, strongly opposed to this test, which has never been given to anyone in the history of the Navajo Nation," Deschene said in a statement. "It was not vetted, and was designed to disqualify me, not to test my fluency."

Chief hearing officer Richie Nez, however, said he had no choice but to disqualify Deschene. A final order issued yesterday said the candidate failed to show whether he is fluent in the Navajo language, as required by tribal law.

"The open defiance by [Deschene] cannot be tolerated," Nez said in the order. "It defies the authority of the Supreme Court and of this tribunal."

Deschene said he will appeal to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court. The justices, however, previously issued an order that said being fluent in the language is a "reasonable" requirement for presidential candidates.

If Deschene loses his case, the the tribe would presumably have to print new absentee ballots because they were already sent out with his name. Russell Begaye, who came in third in the tribe's primary, would appear on the ballot instead.

Joe Shirley Jr., a former president who speaks Navajo fluently, will remain in the running. He won the most votes in the primary.

Get the Story:
Navajo Presidential Candidate To Appeal Language Decision Against Him (Fronteras 10/9)
OHA written ruling: 'Deschene disqualified, replace him with candidate with next highest votes' (The Navajo Times 10/10)
Tribal hearing officer rules against Navajo Nation presidential hopeful Chris Deschene (The Farmington Daily Times 10/10)

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Order:
Tsosie v. Deschene (September 26, 2014)

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Navajo Nation court to hear language issue affecting candidate (9/24)
Appeal filed over Navajo language ability of presidential hopeful (9/17)
Navajo Nation presidential candidate a target over fluency issue (09/11)
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