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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — A candidate for president on the nation's largest Indian reservation could be removed from the ballot just weeks before the election after he refused to show whether he is fluent in Navajo as required by tribal law.
In a hearing that underlined the importance of the language to the Navajo Nation, an administrative court officer said he had no choice but to rule against Chris Deschene.
"I have been pushed into a corner," said Richie Nez, of the tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals, after Deschene repeatedly declined to answer questions in Navajo.
Deschene vowed to appeal Nez's decision, meaning it's unclear whether he will appear on the ballot. He must file his appeal within 10 days to the tribe's Supreme Court, which likely will consider the case on an expedited basis.
No decision will be made on whether Deschene's name will be on the ballot on Election Day until after the appeal period.
Deschene said he is proficient in speaking Navajo and that he has proven so on the campaign trail. He said he should not be subjected to a standard of fluency in a courtroom when that standard isn't well-defined.
"I respectfully decline to put myself in front of the whole world to answer a test that has not been vetted, has not been approved," Deschene said in court.
The case stems from grievances filed by two of Deschene's primary election opponents, who cited a Navajo law that requires anyone seeking the tribe's top elected office to be fluent in Navajo. It is the first time a candidate has been challenged under the law, approved by the Tribal Council in the early 1990s.
Dale Tsosie and Hank Whitethorne allege Deschene lied when he attested to speaking the language fluently when he applied to be a candidate.
Attorneys for the two accused Deschene of dodging the issue. Deschene declined to take a fluency test designed by personnel from the tribe's education department and did not answer questions in Navajo in a videotaped deposition earlier this week. On Thursday, he also declined to answer questions in Navajo from Whitethorne's attorney Justin Jones about tribal government procedures.
"It's a fair question. He's a presidential candidate," said David Jordan, Tsosie's attorney. "We're not asking him the Pythagorean theorem in Navajo. We're asking how a resolution becomes law."
The Navajo Supreme Court last month sent the case back to Nez after ruling the Navajo language is sacred and cannot be disregarded as a qualification for the presidency.
The language is a defining part of the tribe's culture, said to have been handed down by deities. It's woven into creation stories and ceremonies, and spoken during legislative sessions, in dinner conversations and during Miss Navajo pageants.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more people speak Navajo than any other single American Indian language. Of the tribe's more than 300,000 members, about 169,000 speak Navajo.
Deschene said he believes the issue is broader than fluency. He said the Supreme Court also must consider the people who voted for him in the primary, a traditional law that says Navajos have the right to choose their leaders, and whether the grievances were timely filed.
The high court determined the grievances were filed within a deadline and ordered Nez to consider them on the merits.
Tribal officials have said the language dispute was threatening to postpone the Nov. 4 presidential election.
Absentee ballots giving voters a choice between Deschene and former President Joe Shirley Jr. went out Monday. Replacement ballots would have to be sent if Deschene is deemed unqualified, elections official Kimmeth Yazzie said.
The tribe's election office, which certified Deschene as a presidential candidate, said it takes applications for the presidency at face value. Deschene came in second to Shirley Jr. in the August primary.
Gov. Jan Brewer is headed off to Norway and then Ireland this week in hopes of boosting trade with the two countries. Press aide Andrew Wilder said that, no, that doesn't mean more sardines for Arizona.
PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer is headed to Norway, then Ireland this week in hopes of boosting trade with the two countries.
And press aide Andrew Wilder said that, no, that doesn't mean more sardines for Arizona.
"The governor and the Arizona Commerce Authority believe there significant potential for growth to improve trade between Arizona, Norway and Ireland,'' he said. Wilder said Brewer wants to "promote the state as a great place to do business,'' something he said could create new jobs here.
While in Europe, Brewer also will address the Oxford Union Society which bills itself as "the world's most prestigious debating society with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford.''
Wilder said Brewer was invited to give a speech on her efforts to improve Arizona's economy during the global recession along with topics like immigration. And he said she'll also stand for questions.
But he said the main focus is that trade mission.
Her trip, though, also means she will miss the formal opening of a trade office Arizona is opening this coming week in Mexico City. Lawmakers approved funding for that this past session.
Wilder said while Brewer would have liked to attend, the Europe trip, having been postponed from the spring, was already in the works.
Brewer has nothing to lose, as the trade numbers probably have nowhere to go but up.
The U.S. Census Bureau puts Ireland at just No. 24 on the list of places where Arizona exports its product. That's below Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iceland.
And Norway doesn't even make the Top 25.
Wilder said, though, there are signs of improvement.
He said total trade -- both exports and imports -- between Arizona and Norway was $31 million in 2008. By 2013 the figure had risen to $93 million.
"Sardines are not on the Top 10 list,'' he quipped.
There already is a Norwegian presence in Arizona, Wilder said. One is a company called Norsk Hydro, an aluminum supplier. And Aker Solutions, which provides products and services to the oil and gas industry, has employees in Tucson.
Exports to Norway navigational equipment, control instruments and communications gear, along with fabricated metals. Coming here from there, Wilder said, are "a lot of aerospace products and parts.''
But Wilder pointed out that total trade between the United States and Norway totals $350 billion.
"We'd like to get a bigger piece of that pie,'' he said.
The same situation exists with Ireland, said Wilder, with just a miniscule percentage of the national $376 billion annual trade attributable to Arizona.
Wilder acknowledged the kind of investments Brewer might be able to land are a far cry from the big fish that are normally sought, like a deal Brewer made to bring a plant to Mesa to manufacture the sapphire glass for some Apple products. But he said they are no less important.
"These add up,'' he said.
"Not every company is going to be a 5,000-job investment,'' Wilder continued. "But what is going to drive things, too, is getting a lot of these smaller companies to come here.''
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia
PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau has chosen Arizona's Maricopa County and Savannah, Georgia, as sites for 2015 testing to prepare for the 2020 national headcount.
The bureau said Friday that the testing will study new ways to count the population, including approaches for census takers to use when following up with households that fail to respond.
According to the bureau, the Savannah testing will primarily focus on getting more residents to respond by providing ways to pre-register either online or by phone.
The bureau says it doesn't need extra staff for the Savannah test but will hire more than 800 temporary workers for the testing in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and most of its suburbs.
The Maricopa County test concentrates on following up with households that fail to respond.
The U.S. Census Bureau has chosen Arizona's Maricopa County and Savannah, Georgia, as sites for 2015 testing to prepare for the 2010 national headcount.
PHOENIX -- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide who can legally draw Arizona's congressional districts.
In a brief order, the justices said they will consider arguments by legislative leaders that the U.S. Constitution allows these boundaries to be drawn only by the majority of the 30 members of the Senate and 60 state representatives. The lawmakers want the high court to void part of a 2000 voter-approved law which gave that power to a separate Independent Redistricting Commission.
A hearing could occur as early as January.
There are profound political implications for Arizona if the court agrees. Most immediately, it would void the maps for the state's nine congressional districts that the commission created.
But the real repercussions would occur if the court hands that responsibility back to the Legislature.
That would free the Republican majority to redraw the lines for the 2016 election and beyond in ways more favorable to GOP candidates. And that likely would mean the political makeup of the state's congressional delegation, currently split 5-4 between Democrats and Republicans, would shift, perhaps sharply.
The fight turns on the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution which says that the "times, places and manner'' of electing members of Congress "shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.''
That's the way it occurred in Arizona prior to 2000. It was also a process that often resulted in districts designed to give an advantage to the majority party.
That year, however, year voters amended the state constitution to create the five-member commission, charging it with drawing both legislative and congressional lines. The new commission then crafted lines for the coming decade.
As required by law, new districts were drawn following the 2010 census and the state got another seat in the U.S. House. It was only then that Republican legislative leaders expressed concern -- and filed suit -- when the lines were drawn in a way that eventually gave Democrats five of the nine seats.
A majority of a three-judge panel rejected the challenge, saying Arizona voters were within their rights. That sent the case to the high court.
Commission attorney Mary O'Grady acknowledged the federal constitutional language. But she said Thursday it doesn't mean what lawmakers contend.
" 'The Legislature' in this context, in the Elections Clause, is referring to the lawmaking process of the state,'' she said.
"It's not dictating how that lawmaking process ought to be exercised,'' O'Grady continued. "It's just referring to whatever the lawmaking process of the state is.''
And in this case, she said, the Arizona Constitution specifically authorizes voters to write their own laws through the initiative process, which is exactly how the commission was created in the first place.
"That's a wholly specious argument,'' responded Senate President Andy Biggs. "It makes me giggle.''
He wants the justices to conclude that the word "Legislature'' means exactly what it suggests.
"Both the state and the federal constitution say that every state shall have a republican form of government,'' Biggs said.
"That means it's not a direct democracy,'' he continued. "That means that we don't vote on every issue.''
He conceded that the Arizona constitution does permit voters to exercise legislative powers.
"In fact, Arizona has more direct democracy than most states,'' Biggs said. But he said that does not make the people of Arizona into "the Legislature,'' a term he said is defined in the state constitution as "the bicameral (body) consisting of the House and Senate, elected by the people to be their elected representatives in the Legislature.''
In issuing their order Thursday, the justices gave themselves a way out of the whole legal argument. They said they first want to decide whether lawmakers have has the right to ask them to essentially void a provision of the state constitution because it trimmed their political power.
"There's lots of case law that says that's not really the kind of injury that gives standing to file suit,'' O'Grady said.
Thursday's action by the Supreme Court does not affect a separate lawsuit challenging the lines the commission drew for the state's 30 legislative districts, one which the high court has not yet decided whether to review.
In that case, however, the challengers do not dispute the commission can draw legislative districts. Instead, they dispute how those districts were drawn.
Challengers contend commission members acted improperly when they intentionally "packed'' non-Hispanic Republicans into some districts. That meant remaining districts had a higher proportion of Democrats, giving candidates from that party a better chance of getting elected.
Attorney Thor Hearne said what makes that illegal is not the partisan motives but hot it was done. He said the commission ignored state constitutional requirements that it create districts of equal population. Using 2010 census figures, each district should have about 213,000 residents. But the commission, by its own admission, had districts ranging from 203,026 to 220,157.
The majority of a three-judge panel rejected the challenge, concluding the U.S. Constitution does not require that legislative districts have precisely equal population.
Instead, the judge said, there can be "divergencies'' that are necessary to achieve other goals. And in this case, they said, that the commission's decision to manipulate the lines was primarily to comply with requirements of the Voting Rights Act to not dilute minority voting strength and not to give Democrats a political leg-up.
But Judge Neil Wake, in his dissent, disagreed, saying "it does not take a Ph.D. to see this stark fact of intended party benefit.''
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Fred DuVal warned Sunday that businesses will not come to Arizona if the state scraps the Common Core academic standards.
Money may or may not be able to buy happiness, but a new WalletHub report shows that, on average, Arizonans are somewhat less happy with their lives than much of the rest of the nation. And part of the state's ranking at No. 31 is because income is below the national average and is not growing.
An independent study by a home-security company based on FBI statistics ranked the town of Gilbert as the fifth-safest city in Arizona.
It's disheartening to see the grifters, opportunists and race-baiters once again grab the chance to stir up racial animosity. We've seen Ferguson before. It's another setback to those sincerely striving for racial harmony.
The longtime funnyman has been making audiences laugh for nearly three decades, but that’s only a fraction of his repertoire. He’s also a film and television actor, co-owner of the Laugh Factory on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, a philanthropist, chairman of the California Latino Water Coalition and a hardcore Republican who supported candidate Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.
Claiming illegal political motives, attorneys for Republicans are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to void the lines drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission for the state's 30 legislative districts.
Chandler Regional Medical Center will now be able to better serve the most critically injured patients in the East Valley.
(Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about “snowbirds” in the Valley of the Sun).
Although it only accounts for approximately 1 percent of the total size, Nationwide’s recent purchase of a plot of land in Gilbert has completed all of the acreage it will have for its Rivulon project.
The U.S. Supreme Court could announce at its first public session of the year in October whether state lawmakers will get to redraw Arizona's congressional lines.
The quality of imported oil, of the olive variety, is under scrutiny after a 2010 report by the University of California, Davis Olive Center determined most “extra-virgin” olive oils fail to meet U.S. or international standards regarding the content and taste.
Gilbert officials are working to build a park in a part of town that currently lacks town-owned recreation options.
One of the most important real estate developments in Gilbert recently agreed to house the office of an Arizona-based health company and, in essence, start construction on the project.
Everyone needs to be aware of the financial resources they will have available in retirement. But if you’re a woman, you must be particularly diligent, for a variety of reasons. And that means you’ll need to know just what to expect from Social Security.
Civil rights groups asked a federal appeals court Monday to let them try to block an Arizona law banning abortions based on race or gender because the statute was passed because of racial stereotypes of – and hostility to – blacks and Asian-Americans.