“I feel like we’ve been disenfranchised,” said Robert Turk, 57.
It was the shared sentiment Thursday at the first GOP convention in San Juan County since a federal judge redrew the boundaries to give Navajos, who tend to affiliate as Democrats, a significant majority of voters in two of three commission districts and three of five school board seats. The decision was meant to reverse the historic political domination by whites over American Indians.
But it has roiled Monticello and Blanding, the two larger towns here that each has more than 75 percent Anglo populations, where American flags wave from almost every porch, pickup trucks sit in most driveways and pretty much anyone who’s not a tourist wears cowboy boots. The districts, they said, are now unfairly based on race and party.
And federal Judge Robert Shelby, they said, is to blame.
“You mean King Shelby?” asked longtime Blanding resident Al Clarke. “The way these districts came about is just totalitarian.”
“He’s skewed everything in favor of the Democrats,” added Zeb Dalton, 39, still wearing his tan cowboy hat hours after he’d finished work for the day at his cattle ranch….
It was underscored, too, by some racial tension among residents concerned that American Indians living on the Navajo Nation don’t pay property taxes. Lynn Laws, 69, of Blanding, worries about having “two nontaxpaying commissioners telling us how to use our tax money.”
Others suggested Navajo commissioners wouldn’t show up for meetings, wouldn’t allocate funding to white towns, wouldn’t understand how to govern the county.