Published March 9, 2016
CHINLE, ARIZONA—Arizona State Sen. Carlyle Begay says he wants to continue to be a voice for tribal and rural communities … but at a higher level.
Begay on Monday threw his hat into the already crowded ring for the Republican nomination for Arizona’s Congressional District 1, announcing his candidacy in a press release.
“I don’t see this as my next step,” Begay said in an exclusive interview with the Navajo Times. “Title or position never mattered to me.
“I’m looking at issues I’ve been working on at the state level that I think can be taken to a national level.”
Begay said he will run on a three-pronged platform that continues the issues he has worked on in the Arizona State Legislature: job creation and education (which he believes go hand-in-hand), being a voice for the nation’s “overlooked and forgotten” communities, and local control of services and resources.
Begay cited the “tremendous need” for jobs and opportunity on the nation’s Indian reservations and in its rural areas, including the need to eliminate the “arduous bureaucracy” that discourages so many Navajo entrepreneurs to the point that they start their businesses off the reservation.
At the same time, he said, the reservations sport “some of the worst schools in the country,” turning out graduates ill-equipped to staff any companies that do manage to get off the ground.
“How do we compete for the jobs of today, the jobs of tomorrow?” he asked.
One way is to get job providers into education, as he has done with his Code Talkers to Code Writers Initiative, Begay said.
That initiative involves a partnership between participating schools and two high-tech companies — Intel and Cisco Systems — to train computer code writers.
“We will train 1,000 code writers over the next five years,” Begay said, noting that a code writer with just a two-year certificate can earn upwards of $100,000 a year.
The candidate believes most Americans are not aware of what he calls the “crisis in Indian education,” which is why he is making a documentary on it.
In fact, he said, most Americans are entirely unaware of any of the problems on the nation’s reservations — a fact that became clear to him in the legislature.
“When we talk about our issues,” he said, “many people even in Arizona don’t understand things like a school bus getting stuck in the mud.”
In the nation as a whole, the level of awareness is even more lacking, Begay noted.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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