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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Former Navajo Nation leader is running for Congress in Arizona

Jonathan Nez led the Navajo Nation, one of the largest federally recognized tribes in the country, from 2019 to 2023.

By Neil Vigdor

Jonathan Nez, a former president of the Navajo Nation, will run as a Democrat for a congressional seat in Arizona — a bid that could make him the first Native American from the state to be elected to the House.

The seat, in Arizona’s 2nd District, is now held by Eli Crane, a first-term lawmaker who was among the small group of Republicans who voted to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this month. Nez announced his candidacy in a video posted Monday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I grew up in a rural, low-income home without electricity or running water,” Nez said in the video. “I understand the struggles that 2nd District families are facing right now, from the rising costs of food, gas and child care to increasingly devastating wildfires and health care deserts.”

The sprawling district, which is larger than several states, includes 14 of the 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona. But it leans more Republican after redistricting last year.

Nez, 48, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, led the Navajo Nation, one of the largest federally recognized tribes in the country, from 2019 to 2023, a period marked by an enrollment surge during the pandemic. But last fall, he lost his bid for reelection as president of the tribe, a group that tilts Democratic.

Crane, 43, a former Navy SEAL and a contender on “Shark Tank,” won a crowded Republican primary last year in the district, aided by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

His arrival on Capitol Hill was hardly low key. At the beginning of the year, he was one of the notable holdouts among a group of right-wing Republicans who opposed McCarthy’s election as speaker, voting against him 14 times until McCarthy garnered enough votes on the 15th ballot. He voted “present” on the final ballot.

That intraparty fight played out again this month, when Crane cast his vote to oust McCarthy.

At least two other candidates have filed to run in the race: Lindsay Bowe, a Democrat, and David Bies, a Libertarian.

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