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Navajo’s Ben Shelly Ready for Another Run at Presidency

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is hoping for four more years as the tribe’s top executive.
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Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is hoping for four more years as the tribe’s top executive.

Shelly, 66, filed his paperwork and paid the $1,500 fee on May 16, making him the seventh presidential candidate to complete the application process. The deadline to file is at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28 (tomorrow).

Shelly, who served as vice president from 2007 to 2011 under former president Joe Shirley Jr., took office as the tribe’s seventh president in January 2011. He is the first person to be elected as both president and vice president. He and Vice President Rex Lee Jim, who has served with Shelly for the last four years, jointly announced their intent to run for re-election during events held this month in their home communities.

“It takes tough leadership to face the tough challenges,” Shelly said in a statement released to the press. “We are working together to make change work.”

Shelly and Jim, who won the 2010 election with a 5-percent margin, touted a list of accomplishments since they took office, including business and technological developments across the 27,000-square-mile reservation. Since 2011, the tribe has made economic and infrastructure gains in the form of casinos, increased broadband services and the purchase of the BHP-Billiton Mine.

The tribe also celebrated unprecedented agreements with the federal government, including the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the amended Robert T. Stafford Act, which allows tribes to appeal directly to the government for assistance with emergency declarations.

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Shelly wants to continue working on what he started, said Deswood Tome, a special advisor to the president and Shelly’s campaign manager.

“We have a number of projects that we bought to completion and we have a number of projects that we are currently working on that we wish to complete over the next four years,” Tome said. “The fact is that we’ve accomplished more in three years than any leadership since the early 1980s. We’re on a roll, and with a record like that, we want to continue and make more achievements over the next four years.”

Shelly’s campaign slogan is “Together – making change work,” Tome said.

“In essence, we’re saying that the president and the vice president are the change,” he said. “By working together, they’re making change happen.”

Shelly will face at least six candidates in the August 26 primary election, including former president Joe Shirley Jr., and career politician Donald Benally, of Shiprock, New Mexico. Benally came in third during the 2010 presidential election, after Shelly and former New Mexico state senator Lynda Lovejoy, who was vying to become the tribe’s first female president.

No female candidates have yet filed for this year’s election. The general election is November 4.