Member of Navajo Nation Announces Congressional Bid

The congressional race for New Mexico’s third district has attracted a few notable candidates, including Dineh Benally, a member of the Navajo Nation. “As a devoted official both in private and public sectors, working with tribal, local, state, and federal governments, I believe the culmination of my experiences has instilled the noble purpose of serving the people through this influential office,” Benally wrote in a letter published by the Navajo Post announcing his candidacy. He did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.

Benally currently serves as president of the Navajo Nation San Juan River Farm Board and as president of the Native American Agricultural Company (NAAC). In March, Benally was appointed to the board of directors of One World Ventures Inc., a company that develops and invests in technologies, communities, and systems in the legal hemp and cannabis industry.

The 42-year-old is a fierce advocate of cannabis and how the Navajo Nation can benefit from the legal cannabis and hemp industry. In his candidacy announcement, Benally noted that all industries were facing challenges, including unemployment, health care, and a stagnant economy.

“Immersed in the winds of change in all industries including energy and technology, our district must continue to take part in innovation,” he wrote. “The district represents a center that can call itself the Last Frontier, where the past, the present, and the future can be embraced as one. Therefore, it is with this vision and commitment that I begin this campaign.”

The Democrat is running to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic Congressman Ben Ray Luján, who announced he was running for the Senate. Several other Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring, including State Representative Joseph Sanchez and businessman Mark McDonald. Former spy Valerie Plame has also expressed interest in the Congressional seat. Plame told The Associated Press on April 5 that she is considering running in the 2020 election for the open congressional seat and will announce her decision soon. “Right now, I am going around and meeting with people,” the ex-CIA operative and Democrat told the AP. “I have a lot to learn and I would like another opportunity to serve my country.”

If Benally were to win, he would join four other legislators who claim Native American ancestry: Oklahoma Republicans Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin, and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) — who made history in the 2018 midterm election when they became the first Native American women elected to Congress.

Native Americans, who were finally granted the right to vote in the United States in 1924, scored two other important and historic wins in the last election. Democrat Peggy Flanagan became the first Native American lieutenant governor in Minnesota, while Democrat Willie Grayeyes won a key county race in Utah which had been dominated by a white minority, The New York Times reported.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.