Handicapping the hopefuls: Who has best chance?


With a record 19 men and women vying to become the next president of the Navajo Nation, the big question is who are the favorites?

Russell Begaye

This could be resolved easily if the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise were to start taking bets on which two candidates have the best chance of making it to the general election in November. But while the enterprise is talking to state officials about being allowed to do sports betting on which NFL teams are likely to be in the Super Bowl, there have been no plans to extend this to tribal elections.

But that is not a problem since every four years at the beginning of election season the Navajo Times has issued its own handicapping predictions. And up until eight years ago, the predictions would be fairly accurate because Navajo voters were so predictable.

But things began happening when the older, more predictable voters began to be replaced by younger, less predictable voters. So someone like Chris Deschene, who was listed as having only a 50-1 shot at being president, suddenly started getting noticed and before you knew it, he was a serious contender.

So the list that follows is based on only two things – political bases and how familiar the candidate is to the average Navajo voter, the two things at this stage of the race can be reasonably determined.

So here goes.

  • Joe Shirley Jr. (1-5, for every $5 you bet, you would receive $1 if he makes it to the general election) comes into the race with the biggest political base of all of the candidates. These are die-hard supporters that Shirley can depend on at each election. This support was big enough to make him No. 1 in the 2014 primary and the chances are good he will do it again.
  • Russell Begaye (1-3) has a political base that is much smaller but tribal elections have shown in the past that whenever an incumbent runs, he can depend on picking up some support from people who feel comfortable with the leader in charge and don’t want to see any change. • Jonathan Nez (2-1), the tribe’s current vice president, has shown that in every election he can get support when he needs it, from being unopposed when he ran for Council to helping Begaye in the Arizona portion of the reservation.
Categories: Politics

About Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.