Sasnak: Peoples Convoy 2/25/22. Morning Drivers Meeting
Navajo Nation leader launches Republican bid for Congress
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Indianz.Com

Myron Lizer, the often controversial vice president of the Navajo Nation, is running for U.S. Congress.

Lizer, a Republican, is seeking his party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District of Arizona. He believes the newly redrawn boundaries of the district will play in his favor as he seeks to become the first Native person to serve in Congress from his state.

“The United States of America has strength, dreams, creativity and opportunities,” Lizer said in an announcement on Tuesday. “As the world carries forward into an unknown future, there are many tasks that is required to be accomplished — especially in the federal government.”

“The project-killing bureaucracy, lack of financial investment, huge government spending and broken promises by the federal government has limited the interest of ‘We the People,'” Lizer continued. “This includes the First Nations of America, as federal government’s responsibility is to govern the public, not to dictate the citizens.”

Lizer has frequently attempted to tie his conservative vision of limited government to issues facing Indian Country. He spoke at the Republican National Convention back in 2020 as he supported then-president Donald Trump’s failed bid for re-election.

“You see, our people have never been invited into the ‘American Dream,'” Lizer said in a video taped on the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Nation. “For years we’ve fought congressional battles with past congressmen and senators that were part of a broken system that ignored us.”

More recently, Lizer welcomed the so-called “People’s Convoy,” a group of truckers that opposes COVID-19 safeguards, to the largest reservation in the United States. He drew criticism for supporting the goals of the ongoing protest even as the Navajo Nation continues to maintain a mask mandate and takes other measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“The people are rising up,” Lizer said from the Arizona portion of the reservation last Friday.

The tribe was hit early by COVID-19, and has suffered disproportionately throughout the pandemic. But attendees of the People’s Convoy stop on the reservation went without masks. The Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President did not return a request for comment on whether it had approved of the event attended by Lizer.

During his remarks, Lizer reminded the crowd about his past support for Trump, who only served one term in office as president of the United States. Using Christian religious themes, he repeated some of messages he delivered at the GOP conference.

“We love you and miss you,” Lizer said of Trump.

The 2nd Congressional District of Arizona includes portions of the Navajo Nation, where Lizer has served as vice president since January 2019. The boundaries were recently redrawn by Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, an official state body, and it now leans more Republican, according to an analysis in Roll Call, a publication that focuses on the U.S. Congress.

Jonathan Nez and Tom O'Halleran
President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation, left, talks with Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Arizona) during a visit to the Arizona portion of the largest reservation in the United States on February 10, 2022. Photo courtesy Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President

In the 2020 general election, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Arizona) won his second term in the 1st Congressional District. But due to the change in boundaries, he is now running in the 2nd District. He appears ready to confront the apparent GOP tilt in his new backyard.

“I know by now most of you have seen our new map; I’ve seen it too. I’ve talked with our staff, our hardworking volunteers, and, most importantly, my family,” O’Halleran said in his re-election announcement. “We know this race will be tough, but I’ve never been one to back away from a tough race before, and I don’t intend to now.”

Besdies Lizer, at a handful of Republicans have already thrown their hat into the ring for the 2nd district. So whoever wins the GOP nomination will face O’Halleran later this year. The Democratic candidate is already touting his record in Indian Country.

“Over the past five years, I’ve worked to secure concrete change for rural and tribal Arizona families—funds to clean up abandoned uranium mines in Indian Country, a new veterans nursing home in northern Arizona, COVID relief programs for small businesses fighting to stay open, funding for much-needed forest health programs and forest fire mitigation, and billions in new investments for rural Arizona roads, bridges, broadband expansion, water systems, electric grids, and more, in the bipartisan infrastructure deal,” O’Halleran said.

The old boundaries of the 1st Congressional District included a strong Native vote component. In addition to the Arizona portion the Navajo Nation, it reached the Hopi Tribe and the Gila River Indian Community.

About 23 percent of the population within the former boundaries is American Indian or Alaska Native, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite the strong presence, no Native candidate has ever won election in the old 1st District, or in Arizona altogether.

Jonathan Nez, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2020, serves as president of the Navajo Nation, having won election in November 2018. Lizer was his running mate — the vice president position is not an electable position in and of it self.

The Navajo president and vice president serve a term of four years. In making his Congressional announcement on Tuesday, Lizer did not say whether he would be running for tribal office later this year.

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Navajo Nation leader welcomes anti-COVID convoy to reservation (February 25, 2022)