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On Tuesday--a little over a week after Navajo Nation Council Speaker sent a letter to Heather Wilson expressing support for her platform--Heinrich's campaign announced that he had earned the endorsement of the Navajo Nation.
According to the Heinrich campaign, the council voted Monday night to approve a resolution (see 0444-12, the final item in the council agenda [pdf]) endorsing Heinrich's candidacy for the US Senate. Another resolution (0443-12) provided for an endorsement of Ben Ray Luján for Congressional District 3.
The endorsement did provoke some confusion, however.
Last week, the political blog New Mexico Watchdog, among other media outlets, reported that the council had "declared its support for Heather Wilson," speculating that Heinrich's "war on coal" cost him support. Wilson's campaign circulated a letter to Wilson, signed by Council Speaker Johnny Naize, saying that the council "supports your platform of job creation, energy sustainability and the sovereign rights of our indigenous Nation."
On Tuesday, after Heinrich's campaign announced that it had the official endorsement, Watchdog report Jim Scarantino reported on the "quick turnaround."
According to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Russell Begaye, who introduced the resolution supporting Heinrich, delegates can send letters expressing support for certain candidates, but the nation's official endorsement can't come until the council votes on official legislation stating its endorsement of a candidate.
Begaye says that happened Monday night, with an 11-1 vote by the council (the speaker, who did not vote, acted as the 13th member for a quorum).
A press release from the Heinrich camp includes the following statements from Begaye and Heinrich:
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Russell Begaye, who introduced the resolution to endorse Martin Heinrich, said, "The Navajo Nation Council voted to unify its voice in endorsing Congressman Martin Heinrich, as he seeks to become New Mexico's next U.S. Senator. The Navajo Nation is dedicated to supporting candidates that have courage and who show true leadership on Navajo issues, which is needed in Washington, D.C. Our vote signals to all Navajos in New Mexico that the Navajo Nation sees value in Martin’s unwavering support for Social Security, Veterans Benefits, and Indian Health Care--issues of great importance to Navajo. On Election Day, we implore all Navajo New Mexicans to vote for Martin in hopes to maintain and enhance retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s legacy."
“It is a great honor to receive the endorsement of the Navajo Nation. The voices of the Navajo people are critical to moving our country forward and providing a better future for our children,” said Heinrich. “Too many in Washington do not understand the unique issues facing the Navajo Nation. I’m proud of the legislative accomplishments that we have achieved together and I look forward to working with the great people of the Navajo Nation in the U.S. Senate.”
In response to SFR's questions about why the Wilson campaign sent out press releases trumpeting the Navajo Nation's support of Wilson, spokesman Chris Sanchez forwarded the same Oct. 20 press release (scroll down).