‘It’s time to put a Navajo in Congress’

One Republican, One Democrat seek the House seat representing northern New Mexico #NativeVote20

Two citizens of the Navajo Nation will compete for a seat in Congress. Karen E. Bedonie and Dineh Benally each hope to represent northern New Mexico.

Bedonie and Benally enter a “crowded” race that looks “like a good fight” because there appears to be no “obvious favorite,” according to the The Albuquerque Journal.

“It’s time to put a Navajo in Congress!” Benally shouted while walking in the parade at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock, New Mexico, on Saturday.

The two candidates face 10 Democrats and three Republicans in a race for the 3rd congressional district, according to the Federal Election Commission. Bedonie will be a candidate in the Republican primary while Benally seeks the Democratic nomination.

Current Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján occupies the seat and has since 2009. But Luján hopes to replace Democratic Sen. Tom Udall’s spot since the two-term lawmaker is not running for re-election. Another contender in the Senate race is Gavin Clarkson, Choctaw, who ran for the 2nd congressional district in 2018 and was defeated in the GOP primary. He later ran as the Republican candidate for N.M. Secretary of State.

The big story in the Land of Enchantment is having two Navajo people, Bedonie and Benally, running for Congress. It is likely this is the first time this has occurred and both candidates want to be seated at the table.

“I want that vacated seat Luján, and I'm coming for it!” said Bedonie on social media. She calls for term limits in the House and Senate. She doesn’t have any political experience, according to her campaign website. Her campaign didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

The GOP candidate makes her positions on abortion, the 2nd Amendment, small businesses, and immigration clear.

As a business woman, Bedonie supports small businesses around the country. With her husband, they own four businesses in total.

“Small businesses employ the largest percentage of our nation and therefore we pay the most in taxes. Small businesses are not the rich 1 percent,” she said. “We need to lighten the load.”

She says all of the taxes on small businesses from the federal level and down to the commercial permit tax are “all too much,” including the working class paying for social programs.

Bedonie also believes a higher minimum wage will put out businesses that “will sky rocket the cost of living.”

“The ones who stand for self-reliance and independence have become the bearers of the ‘freebie’ system for all,” said the mother of eight on her campaign website.

She wants to move America away from “socialistic imprisonment” and communism.

"I grew up in the mess of Democratic socialism. It's a never-ending cycle of program dependence and poverty,” she said. “I know the outcome of government medical care for all, government red-tape on life and choice, government control of your family, your finances, your food, and your freedom.”

Her anti-abortion stance has her against funding entities that fund the act like Planned Parenthood.

“Abortion is a radical act that should not be placed on the shoulders of taxpayers, ever,” she said.

She refers to her in Navajo culture when she says that “we must do all things in a good way,” including legal immigration.

“Open borders overwhelm our southern communities and impact our health, safety, and economics,” she said. “We must preserve our communities and our Indian nations from the overwhelming illegal immigration.”

As for her stance on the 2nd Amendment, the mother of five daughters tells it straight with words (and her campaign photos). She will fight for the law to be “untouched and unaltered” due to her experience as a sister to rape victims, a sister of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and “witnessing violent harassment and criminal acts of terror over the meek.”

“And, by the 2nd Amendment, there shall never be another Long Walk ever again,” she said.

The advocate of veteran healthcare also wants “healthcare with realistic solutions.”

As a Navajo woman, she lists that she wants “absolute protection of Native American lands and treaty rights” and promises to protect New Mexico’s water and aquifers. Her stance in energy in New Mexico isn’t clear but lists “New Mexico Energy.”

Even though Bedonie doesn’t list any political experience, she comes into the race with a background as an entrepreneur, welder, construction coordinator, construction manager, kitchen interior designer, and a sous chef.

“This is me, a simple hardworking mother of eight, dedicated wife, businesswoman and a praying woman,” she said.

Whether in her campaign or after, she will tell presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren that she doesn’t forgive her, and she let’s Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, know that, “you should know better.”

Luján, Haaland, and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small represent the Land of Enchantment in the House now. All are Democrats.

Native Republicans in Congress include Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee.

Dineh Benally_Navajo
Dineh Benally, Navajo, is running for Congress in New Mexico.(Facebook)

On the other side of the aisle is Benally who has campaign experience and a background in politics at all levels.

The father of four lost the race for Navajo Nation president last year when he came in fourth with 5,211 votes.

Benally, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in infrastructure for nine years, ran against John Pinto for the state senate in 2003, according to the Navajo Times. He lost.

In 2014, he joined forces with Joe Shirley, Jr. as his vice president for the tribal election, too. They lost to former President Russell Begaye and now President Jonathan Nez.

He runs the Navajo Nation San Juan River Farm Board, which focuses on water rights and improving the local economy. As of late, his position and work is leading to the first hemp store to open on the Navajo Nation.

Pushing for the hemp and cannabis industries on tribal lands are part of his campaign as well as making cannabis available to Native communities so they can combat health issues.

He is an advocate for sustainability and wants to help farmers make more profit outside of the growing season.

More areas he focuses on are affordable housing and funding education with government funds for college students and student-loan forgiveness programs.

Another Navajo in the 2020 election is Mark Charles. He is running for president of the United States as an Independent. The first Navajo to do so and the second Native person to run for president.

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

Comments (1)
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caniscandida
caniscandida

No doubt Karen Bedonie is a great person; but it's hard to see how any woman, or person of color, or Native American can have anything to do with the GOP. Too bad she accepted the prejudiced anti-socialism falsehoods about Democrats. The Democratic Party is far from perfect, but at least there are people who are open-minded and ready to be persuaded and led by smart people of good heart and sound judgment who understand the needs of those who have been neglected.