“Being Navajo is not enough” – Mailer raises a ruckus in Four Corners House race
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Seven-term state House of Representatives member Ray Begaye (D-Shiprock) is locked in a battle with Republican Sharon Clahchischilliage up in the Four Corners area of the state in District 4, which encompasses a large number of Native Americans of Navajo descent.
Begaye and Clahchischilliage (pronounced CLAW-chiss-chillage) are each members of the Navajo Nation and over the weekend, the Democratic Party of New Mexico sent out a pro-Begaye, anti-Clahchischilliage mailer that declares, “Sharon Clahchischilliage believes being Navajo is not enough.”
The front of the mailer claims that Clahchischilliage “fired four employees of the Navajo Nation Office in Washington because she wanted them to be more like her white staff” and the mailer says, “It’s almost as if Sharon is ashamed of Navajos.”
“To accuse me of not being Navajo enough … well, I would presume the leadership of the state Democratic Party would not be that reckless,” Clahchischilliage told Capitol Report New Mexico by telephone Sunday afternoon (Oct. 28).
Clahchischilliage confirmed that while she was director at the Washington, DC, office of the Navajo Nation she fired four employees in 2002 but that “it had nothing to do with race” and was based on job performance.
Voice mail messages were left with the Democratic Party of New Mexico and Rep. Begaye on Sunday. Once we hear back, we’ll post a response.
Politics in Native American districts has long had a tradition for the rough and tumble but generally, outside groups steer clear of ads that talk about Indian culture or a candidate’s attachment to it.
“This is setting a different political tone,” said one member of the Navajo tribe with a political background who preferred not to be named. “For another party, the Democratic Party, whose management is non-Native to say this lady [Clahchischilliage] is this or that, people here go, ‘Whoa!’ ”
Here is the front of the mailer sent out by the Democratic Party:
And here’s the back:
Begaye has also been the target of third-party ads and mailers in the District 4 race — including one radio spot in which an announcer in a Robin Leach-type voice accuses Begaye of living the high-life at the expense of taxpayers. Clahchischilliage says she has not coordinated with Republican political action committees on the anti-Begaye ads but said, “they were all factually based and there were no smears like what came out against me.”
Begaye has held the seat in District 4 for 14 years and has never had a close race since winning election to the Roundhouse.
But an investigation by KOB-TV last month put Begaye under fire for allegedly submitting false expense vouchers to the state for a conference he attended in 2010 and pocketing the money, which has prompted an investigation by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
And then, a little more than a week ago, another KOB-TV investigation and a subsequent story by the Albuquerque Journal learned that Begaye wrote a letter — using his legislative stationery and letterhead pointing out Begaye’s membership on the Appropriation and Finance Committee — calling on a magistrate judge to show leniency for Begaye’s daughter in a DWI case. After the news broke, Begaye issued an apology.
The headlines have raised questions whether Clahchischilliage might knock off Begaye on Election Day and given that Democrats cling to a 36-33 edge on Republicans in the House, a loss by Begaye could prove costly for Democrats to hold onto control of the chamber.
To add another twist to the race, Beagye and Clahchischilliage are related to each other through a paternal grandmother.
As in a lot of races in the New Mexico statehouse, it’s hard to tell who’s ahead going into Election Day. Begaye is the incumbent and in the last candidates filings with the Secretary of State’s Office, he had outraised Clahchischilliage, $20,800 to $11,050.
“I’m optimistically cautious,” Clahchischilliage said Sunday.
Click here read an earlier story from Capitol Report New Mexico on the Clahchischilliage-Begaye race.
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LETTER: A Democrat Voter Response to Sharon Clahchischilliage Mailer
[...] recent mailer stating that candidate for NM State Legislature Sharon Clahchischilliage is “not Navajo enough” [...]