Nygren uses familiar platform to defeat incumbent Nose and win Navajo Nation presidency – St George News

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Navajo Nation President-elect Buu Nygren speaks via Facebook Live to supporters at the Tohatchi Chapter House in Tohatchi, NM on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 | Photo by William C. Weaver IV, The Associated Press, St. George News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Buu Nygren entered the Navajo presidential race with a platform echoed by generations of candidates: meeting basic needs on the vast reservation where most roads are unpaved and thousands of families have no running water. nor electricity.

Buu Nygren announces his victory for Navajo Nation President as he reads tabulated votes from the reservation’s chapter houses during his campaign watch party at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Window Rock, Arizona, on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 | Photo by William C. Weaver IV, The Associated Press, St. George News

His expectation that the Navajos hold him accountable for those promises resonated with voters who elected him as the tribe’s chief on Tuesday. Nygren ousted incumbent President Jonathan Nez, who guided the tribe through a pandemic and approved a much-needed infrastructure plan using federal virus relief funding.

Nygren’s victory, along with running mate Richelle Montoya, also means the Navajo Nation will have a woman in the office of president and vice president for the first time. Navajo voters twice advanced Lynda Lovejoy in the general election for president, but she lost both times.

The position wields national influence due to the tribe’s large population and its 27,000 square mile reservation that spans Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and is the largest in the United States. United.

Nygren kept his focus staunchly local after hearing from Navajos who are frustrated with the pace of tribal government and bewildered as to why the economy has largely stagnated. He recognized the hard work ahead of us.

“I’ve said it time and time again, we want to do the things that are hard,” he told a rowdy crowd gathered Tuesday night in the tribal capital of Window Rock.

Unofficial results showed Nygren passing Nez by almost 3,500 votes with the 110 constituencies reported. Turnout among the more than 123,000 registered voters was around 53% – low for a typical tribal presidential election.

Unofficial results from the tribe’s election office showed Nygren ahead of Nez by about 3,500 votes with the 110 precincts reported. Turnout among the approximately 125,000 registered voters exceeded 50%.

Nygren, 35, positioned himself as the candidate for change and as someone who could get the ball rolling on long-awaited projects. He has a background in construction management but has never held political office.

“I’m used to being held accountable in every job,” Nygren, the 2018 tribal running mate, said ahead of Tuesday’s election. “I take this approach. If I don’t play, I have nothing to do here.

The Navajo Nation’s population of 400,000 is second only to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. It also has by far the largest land base of any tribe at 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) extending into parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

Nez and Nygren are fluent in Navajo but were distinctly different in tone and style. Nez preferred suits and often spoke calmly and measuredly. Nygren had a knack for up-and-down speech, wore her hair tied up in a traditional bun, and dressed in more casual clothing.

Nygren pledged to work more closely with the Navajo Nation Council which is often seen as more powerful than the tribal presidency.

The new 24-member board will have a record nine women. Three current council delegates did not seek re-election. Thirteen delegates lost in the primaries or were defeated in the general election, which means there will be plenty of new faces.

Newly elected leaders take office in January.

Nez ascended to the presidency after more than two decades in elected positions in Navajo County and tribal government. He chose Chad Abeyta, a lawyer and veteran, as his running mate.

Nez said he spoke to Nygren on Wednesday and congratulated him.

Nez had described his administration’s work to ensure tribes receive a share of federal virus relief funding, including $1 billion that Navajo leaders have set aside for infrastructure projects.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed inequities in basic services and thrust the Navajo Nation into the spotlight as it had one of the highest infection rates in the United States

“We pray that the next administration will respect the will of our current leaders in carrying out these projects for the people,” Nez said in a statement.

The tribe has long relied on revenues from the coal industry to fund its government, but these revenues have declined as coal-fired power plants and mines have closed. While the Navajo Nation owns a stake in a coal-fired power plant and a few coal mines, it strives to develop renewable energy sources.

Tourism also helps fuel the Navajo economy. The towering rock formations of Shiprock, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly are international attractions for tourists, as is the story of the famous Navajo Code Talkers who developed a World War II code that the Japanese never cracked.

Written by FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

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