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Navajo President Jonathan Nez defeated by political newcomer Buu Nygren

Nygren Montoya
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
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According to unofficial results, 35-year-old Buu Nygren has won the Navajo Nation presidential election against President Jonathan Nez. Nygren and vice presidential candidate Richelle Montoya will be sworn in in January.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez appears to have lost his bid for reelection. Unofficial results from Tuesday’s vote show political newcomer Buu Nygren will take over as the tribe’s top elected official.

A preliminary count of all 110 Navajo chapters shows Nygren with a 3,500-vote lead out of more than 65,000 cast. The 35-year-old Nygren has never held elected office and has a background in construction management. He ran as the vice-presidential candidate in 2018 for former President Joe Shirley Junior. Nygren is married to Arizona state Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren.

His apparent victory also means a woman will be elected as Navajo vice president for the first time. Richelle Montoya is from New Mexico and works for a nonprofit legal aid organization in the tribal capital of Window Rock.

Nez, himself a former Navajo vice president and council delegate, was seeking reelection after serving one term as president. He ran on his political experience, but his time in office was marked by the loss of coal revenue for the tribe and the COVID-19 pandemic that had devastating impacts on the reservation.

Nygren and Montoya will be sworn in in January.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.