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Jonathan Nez, Buu Nygren advance in Navajo presidential race

Jonathan Nez
Posted at 11:24 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 02:24:24-04

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Voters on the vast Navajo Nation have advanced tribal presidential candidates Jonathan Nez and Buu Nygren to the general election in November.

Buu Van Nygren poses for a photograph before a Navajo Nation Presidential forum at a tribal casino outside Flagstaff Arizona, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Nygren is among 15 candidates seeking the top leadership post on the largest Native American reservation in the U.S. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Voters narrowed the list of 15 candidates in the primary election Tuesday.

Nez is a recognizable name in Navajo politics, having served as an elected official with the Shonto Chapter, the Navajo Nation Council and the Navajo County Board of Supervisors. He was vice president before winning the presidency, a job that was dominated by his response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said he would bring continuity to the tribal government as it works to spend more than $1 billion in federal relief funding.

Nygren, who was a vice presidential candidate in 2018, left his job in construction management to seek the presidency. He positioned himself as a diplomat and someone who will bring a modern perspective to the presidency as one of the youngest candidates. The 35-year-old said the Navajo Nation hasn’t been quick enough to respond to a huge loss of revenue from shuttered coal mines and coal-fired power plants, and should capitalize on tourism.

The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American reservation in the U.S., extending into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

The candidates pushed platforms that included economic development, ensuring that basic needs such as running water and electricity are met and finding ways to preserve the Navajo language. They also vowed to press the federal government to fulfill its duty to provide for the public safety, health and education of Navajo people.