Many firsts in primary, general elections

(Times photo - Althea John)

Lynda Lovejoy, left, and Vice President Ben Shelly shake hands on primary night as they think ahead to the Nov. 2 general election on Nov. 2 at the Window Rock Sports Center on Aug. 3.

By Carolyn Calvin
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 31, 2010

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When the votes were counted after the primary election Aug. 3, it was obvious from the first chapter results announced that it was Lynda Lovejoy's night to shine.

She outdistanced the other 11 candidates running for Navajo Nation president, ending up with an unofficial tally of 17,137 votes (35.7 percent of the total vote), more than twice that of her nearest challenger and far more than she polled in the 2006 presidential primary (10,513 votes).

"They should save the tribe some money and name me president now," Lovejoy crowed in delight.

Vice President Ben Shelly, who finished with 7,763 votes (16.2 percent), came in second. Donald Benally, a longtime Shiprock political figure, finished third with 6,082 votes (12.7 percent).

The other candidates, in order of their finish, were: Rex Lee Jim, 4,224 (8.8 percent); Sharon Clahchischilliage, 3139 (6.5 percent); Arbin Mitchell, 2809 (5.8 percent); D. Harrison Tsosie, 2718 (5.7 percent); Dale Tsosie, 2142, (4.5 percent), Daniel Peaches, 749 (1.6 percent); Anthony Begay, 620 (1.3 percent), Jerry Todacheenie, 461 (1.0 percent) and 209 (0.4 percent) for write-in candidates.

Meanwhile, a disappointed President Joe Shirley Jr. looked on from the sidelines, having failed at his bid for a third term after the Navajo Nation Supreme Court affirmed that he was ineligible to run.

The primary election marked a number of firsts in Navajo Nation history.

It's the first time a woman received the most votes in a presidential primary, the first time that a New Mexico resident came in first, and the first time that two New Mexicans faced each other in the runoff for president.

But by Nov. 2, Lovejoy's star had fallen far and hard. The anticipated landslide failed to repeat and at about 9:12 p.m., supporters of Ben Shelly and Rex Lee Jim headed into the Window Rock Sports Center where election results were being called in from the chapters, yelling, "Upset! Upset!"
And, indeed, an upset was what it turned out to be as the vice president and his running mate overturned conventional wisdom about who would succeed Shirley.

In the end, Shelly-Jim won by more than 3,000 votes - 33,692 to 30,357 - according to unofficial election results. That gave them a respectable 52.6-to-47.4 percent margin - no landslide but enough to be decisive.

Shelley managed some firsts of his own in the election - the first vice president to succeed directly to the presidency, the first New Mexican to hold the office, and the first president to enter office facing criminal charges (as opposed to leaving office under indictment).

Shelly and Jim both were among those charged Oct. 21 with misuse of tribal funds. Together they face five charges involving a little over $11,000 in Council discretionary funds, and have asked for an expedited hearing in hopes of clearing their names before they take office.

NEXT, No. 3: Supreme Court rulings re-balanced power

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