Former Navajo Chairman Peterson Zah says healing the wounds of a divided tribe is at the top of his list as the tribe's new president.
"The first order of business will be to put the tribe back together," Zah told hundreds of supporters after defeating interim President Leonard Haskie by a 46-32 percent margin in the tribe's election Tuesday.The new position of president will head the executive branch under the tribe's new three-branch system of government.
Zah, a Low Mountain resident who was tribal chairman from 1983 to 1987, had 23,311 votes to Haskie's 16,354.
George P. Lee of Shiprock, N.M., had 11,407, or 22 percent of the votes.
Cecil Largo of Standing Rock, N.M., received the remaining 59 write-in votes.
A little more than 51 percent of the 99,942 registered voters out of the 219,000 Navajos in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah cast ballots.
In the Aug. 7 primary election, Zah was the top vote-getter with 30.3 percent of the vote. Haskie was third with 21.4 percent of the vote.
Suspended Chairman Peter MacDonald received 22.7 percent of the primary vote to finish second. However, he was disqualified as a candidate by the Board of Election Supervisors after his Oct. 17 conviction in tribal court on bribery, ethics and conspiracy charges.
After MacDonald was disqualified by the board, the council passed a succession amendment, permitting Haskie to be a candidate.
The council also attempted twice to delay the presidential election, but the Navajo Supreme Court upheld the election board's decision to hold the election Tuesday. The general election originally was scheduled for Nov. 6, the day the election for council delegates was held.
Zah's vice presidential running mate was Marshall Plummer, a tribal councilman representing Tohatchi and Coyote Canyon, N.M. Plummer, 42, is chairman of the tribe's Economic Development Committee.
Haskie's running mate was Steve Darden, 37, who works for a management and insurance firm in Flagstaff.
Haskie's supporters chanted "Haskie-Darden in '94" when he appeared as the vote tallies were winding down.
On tribal radio, Haskie said in Navajo that he was satisfied with the votes he received and said the vote totals show Zah doesn't have a strong hold on tribal support. He said he would continue as an engineer but did not say if he would again seek office.
Haskie, 46, holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Northern Arizona University and a master's degree from Brigham Young University.
Zah, 52, campaigned on a platform of supporting family and education. He received an education degree from Arizona State University and served as director of Navajo People's Legal Services Inc. for 10 years and on the Window Rock District School Board for 11 years.
During the campaign, Haskie said he opposes the legalization of liquor on the reservation, pledged his support for funding for Navajo veterans and called for tribal ownership of mineral leases on the reservation. He also has promised to improve housing and medical facilities, expand youth programs and bring new jobs to the reservation.
The Navajo Nation Council in April passed a resolution that reorganized tribal government. The tribe's highest office, chairman, was changed to president and its powers were limited to heading the executive branch. The new post of speaker was created to head the council, which is the tribe's legislative branch. The tribe also has a third branch of government, the judiciary.
Voters made their choices by connecting symbols of broken arrows to photos of the candidates or by writing in the candidates' names.