Vice President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation is advancing to the general election on the reservation, this time as a presidential candidate. Photo: Office of the President and Vice President

Navajo Nation voters oust incumbent in presidential primary

The incumbent president of the Navajo Nation was ousted in a primary that saw his former running mate and a prior leader advance to the general election.

President Russell Begaye came in fifth in the primary on Tuesday, according to the unofficial results. But Vice President Jonathan Nez came out on top, garnering the most votes out of a field of 18 candidates.

And coming in second was Joe Shirley, Jr., a former two-term president of the tribe. He and Nez will now face off in the November 6 general election.

"Thank you to our relatives, friends, and family members for your support tonight. Join us as we rebuild a #StrongerNation together," a post on Shirley's Facebook page read early Wednesday morning.

Joe Shirley, Jr., center, a former two-term president of the Navajo Nation, is back in the running for the tribe's top office. Photo: President Joe Shirley, Jr.

Begaye won the presidency in April 2015 following a period of turmoil on the reservation. A general election was supposed to have taken place the prior November but it was postponed because candidate Chris Deschene was disqualified in a dispute over his Navajo language abilities.

Deschene would have faced Shirley in that election. Begaye, who had come in third in the preceding primary, took his spot when the 2015 election finally took place.

Unofficial Navajo Nation presidential primary results from August 28, 2018. The tallies for the top two candidates -- who will advance to the general election -- are highlighted. Source: Navajo Election Administration

The ouster of Begaye marks the second time in a row that the Navajo Nation has seen a one-term president. Ben Shelly lost his bid for re-election in 2014 but ended up taking office anyway after the dispute involving Deschene went unresolved for several months.

Presidential candidates pick their own running mates, so the vice presidential post is not up for election. Shirley is promising an announcement "soon."

Read More on the Story
Navajo VP, ex-president top finishers in primary (The Associated Press August 29, 2018)
Nez, Shirley top presidential race in tribe's primary election (The Arizona Republic August 28, 2018)
Voters: Keep your promises (The Navajo Times August 28, 2018)

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