When Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay left the Democratic Party to join the Republican Party last year the national spotlight focused on the quiet representative of the people of LD7 in northern Arizona. That national attention spurred demands, from across the state, that he serve an even larger population; the people of Congressional District 1.
For months, residents of CD1 have complained that the race lacks serious candidates despite a field of three democrats, six republicans and an independent. The crowded field is full of candidates plagued by scandals leaving residents with few truly viable choices. Only Republican candidates Begay and Gary Kiehne are scandal free and have long term ties with the people of CD1.
In a recent interview on the James T. Harris show, Begay discussed his reasoning for throwing his hat in the ring. “I think that the current field of candidates has been having a hard time to find a path that has really resonated with residents and communities in CD1, and I was really strong- armed by tribal leaders and community leaders in Arizona and nationally to give it some serious consideration. Even over a month ago, it was something I didn’t think I would seriously do, but it took much self-reflection because running for office is never an easy decision.”
Begay says that as a Christian, he was “driven” by his faith. Living a purpose driven life, and after prayer he decided that running was the right thing to do. “My first goal is to always look at the issues and needs in the state especially in the rural and tribal communities in CD1 also within the legislative district I represent. It was not a decision that I made easily because it was a decision that took much prayer and conversation with my family. Simply I entered public service not for a career in politics but to find a way to continue to find a way to make a difference by fighting for our future and the future of our communities and the future of CD1.”
Begay said the problems facing the residents of CD1 are the same they have faced for years. He claims that the government has focused attention on larger cities and urban areas while the rural residents suffer. He is concerned about the lack of opportunities for rural residents. Begay blames his former political party for some of the failure to end the suffering of residents.
“Democrats have preached hope and change, but have really haven’t been able to deliver with any results,” he told Harris. “There are communities in CD1, and in my legislative district, with unemployment as high as 80%. We have to do something that spurs innovation and opportunity and we can’t expect government to always be the answer. We’ve got to streamline the bureaucracy that is a big barrier for business development and entrepreneurship and listen to being a voice of rural and tribal communities. America and the state of Arizona are not just made up of large cities. It is made of all kinds of communities; including small towns and Native tribes that have different issues.”
Begay, a former school teacher, wants to educate and remind people that they are sovereign and that they have the freedom to take care of themselves and their loved ones. “I was raised under the teachings of my ancestors and instilling in me the importance of remembering who I am,” Begay told Harris. Who he is, who he was raised to be, is someone who is committed to local control and self-determination. “We sometimes forget that we the people are sovereign. We have the independence to provide for ourselves and I learned this lesson early on from my grandfather in my native language. He told me don’t ever think of yourself as a handout or give me. You, yourself, or the community, are responsible to be empowering for ourselves if not for our community.”
Begay intends to serve out his term while campaigning to become the first member of the Navajo Nation to serve at the congressional level.