Flagstaff, Ariz. • Navajo President Ben Shelly’s hopes for a second term were dashed Tuesday when he failed to make it through the tribe’s primary election.
Navajo voters chose to send former President Joe Shirley Jr. and one-time Arizona Rep. Chris Deschene to the November general election. They were among 17 candidates vying for the top elected post on the country’s largest American Indian reservation.
The results are unofficial until certified by the tribe’s elections office.
Shirley served two terms as president, leaving office in 2011. He previously was a social worker, and longtime Apache County supervisor and tribal lawmaker.
Deschene is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served one term in the Arizona House.
More than 114,000 Navajos were registered to vote in Tuesday’s primary. Elections are among the biggest social gatherings on the Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
Whoever wins will oversee 12 executive branch directors, about two dozen staff members and the majority of the tribal budget. The president earns $55,000 a year.Candidates do not run on party lines and can receive campaign contributions from Navajos only once they file for the office.
Tribal lawmaker Kenneth Maryboy of Utah and Cal Nez, of the Utah Native American Chamber of Commerce, were also candidates.
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