FARMINGTON — The chase for the Navajo Nation presidency has been narrowed to two candidates and their running mates. But some voters in the Four Corners area say the announcement of running mates isn't a determining factor when they vote for the president.

On Monday, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. chose council delegate Ben Shelly of Thoreau as his running mate. Lynda Lovejoy, the first woman presidential candidate, selected Walter Phelps, a Native American liaison to Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not for either (candidate)," said Joe Jo Hewey, 40, of Chilchinbeto, Ariz.

He said he didn't have any confidence in Shirley and doesn't support Lovejoy.

"Dayish was the person I voted for (in the primaries). Right now, I'm not just too sure whether I'll even vote (in the general elections)," he said.

While Hewey doesn't support either presidential candidate, Shirley Smith, 47, of Beclabito, said she voted for Shirley in the primary, but said she would have taken a look at Lovejoy's campaign if she had chosen a vice presidential candidate that she knew better.

"The running mate she got, I don't know who he is. Shelly is on the council," she said.

Henry Smith, 51, her husband, said he supports Shirley because he doesn't believe Lovejoy's experience as a New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner is helpful to the Navajo Nation.

"Maybe she does have experience, but she's more about the white man's way. Joe Shirley knows more about the Navajo way," he said.


Claudette Standing Rock, 35, of Farmington, supports Lovejoy, and said she disputes critics of Lovejoy who say a woman in leadership is contrary to Navajo traditions.

"The woman has always been the voice of the home," she said. In addition, Standing Rock said the Shelly's 16 years as a councilman is a sign that the Navajo Nation might not change if Shirley and Shelly are voted into office.

"Somebody that's been around too long might not be ready for change. We need to bring in something fresh. That doesn't always have to be the same person or somebody everybody knows," she said.

Calandra Wilson, 33, of Farmington, said she supports Lovejoy because she may create better services for Navajos living off the Navajo Nation.

"We try to make it here in town, but we aren't doing so good," Wilson said, adding that she recently lost her job and is facing eviction from her apartment.

She said if she lived on the Nation, services would be readily available to help her.

"For Navajos off the rez, it's harder to get help," she said. "Maybe a woman can do a better job (as president)."

Erny Zah: