This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s congressional candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to our energy future, water scarcity and climate change.
You can find all our congressional candidate interviews here.
The following interview is with Deb Haaland, who is running for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives for the state’s first congressional district. Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, was one of the first two indigenous women to be elected to Congress when she won her election in 2018. Prior to that, Haaland served as chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party from 2015 to 2017. In 2014, Haaland ran for Lieutenant Governor on former state Attorney General Gary King’s gubernatorial ticket, but ultimately lost to Republican Susana Martinez and Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez. Haaland also served on then-president Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign as New Mexico’s vote director for Native Americans.
New Mexico’s First Congressional District covers parts of Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Valencia and Torrance counties.
U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland and Raúl Grijalva hosted a panel discussion this week about environmental justice issues in New Mexico. Local speakers discussed a wide range of environmental issues during the panel, which was held in support of the Environmental Justice for All Act currently sitting in the House Natural Resources Committee.
“Race, poverty and the environment are increasingly recognized as interlocking issues,” said panelist Richard Moore, coordinator of the Albuquerque-based Los Jardines Institute. Moore described environmental racism as “the intentional targeting of communities of color and other communities for anything that they [wealthier communities] don’t want in their neighborhoods.”
“Low-income communities, especially people of color, are impacted by toxic pollution,” Moore said. “Children, the elderly and women—especially women of color—are paying the highest price from pollution as a result of increased work and health problems, and economic devastation.”
Haaland said COVID-19 pandemic has “put a spotlight on the legacy of environmental racism and injustice that has left frontline communities far more susceptible to that disease than others.”
RELATED: For Greater Chaco communities, air pollution compounds COVID-19 threat
“For years, powerful elites have treated some communities as sacrifice zones.
The city of Albuquerque’s 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage special on Wednesday was both a celebration of the 19th amendment and a reminder of the darker moments behind voting rights. A bevy of women speakers, from political leaders like Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to young women pledging to vote for the first time this year, talked about the importance of voting and frequently referred to it as a way to make their voices heard. Many also spoke about the struggle for women of color to gain the right to vote even after the passage of the 19th amendment. Social justice advocate Pamelya Herndon, executive director and founder of KWH Social Justice Law Center and Change, brought up the education requirements that some Black voters faced for a century in some states after the Civil War ended as just one impediment. Herndon said the historical social justice leader and “leading male feminist of his time,” W.E.B. Du Bois said that “in order for the Black race to be lifted, every single Black person must have the right to vote.”
The women’s suffrage movement distanced itself from the concept of Black women having the right to vote in the early years of the effort because the suffragettes didn’t want to alienate the white Southern women involved in the cause, according to historians.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland was the second New Mexican woman to have a prominent spot at the Democratic National Convention this week, and delivered a short speech from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Haaland spoke about her background—as not only a Native American woman, but one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. She weaved in some history of her people. She is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, and of Native Americans in general. “My people survived centuries of slavery, genocide and brutal assimilation policies,” Haaland said.
While presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did not choose New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as his running mate, he followed through on his promise to select a woman as his running mate when he chose California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on Tuesday. Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, is the first woman of color as a running mate for a major political party. Democratic politicians in New Mexico, including Lujan Grisham, praised Biden’s choice. “It’s time to rebuild our country better than ever before. It’s time to take back the White House.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small spoke during the political action committee Emily’s List virtual conference this week, highlighting women’s accomplishments in politics. Lujan Grisham took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s “refusal to do the bare minimum,” during the pandemic as she highlighted the accomplishment’s women have made, particularly during the public health emergency. She cited governors Gretchen Whitmer, of Michigan, and Gina Raimondo, of Rhode Island, in particular, for their leadership during the pandemic and called New Mexico “a leader in electing women.”
“Almost a third of women of color who have ever served in any statewide executive office are from New Mexico,” she said in an online speech. “We have the opportunity this fall to send an all women of color House delegation to Washington, D.C. and we have the momentum on our side.”
Lujan Grisham was referring to Democratic candidates Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Torres Small, the incumbent Democratic candidate running to keep her seat for the state’s 2nd Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, another incumbent Democrat running to keep her seat for the 1st Congressional District. Torres Small spoke briefly about some of the difficulties of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico during the pandemic and how COVID-19 exposed inequities that have “existed since the birth of our nation.”
She cited the lack of water and lack of adequate living situations in the Navajo Nation as having contributed to the spread of the disease in the Navajo Nation.
A recent survey of 480 Hispanics in the state found that close to half have $1,000 or less in savings and nearly a quarter have $100 or less. The survey from Latino Decisions, in partnership with several other nonprofit organizations, found that 49 percent of Hispanics surveyed have $1,000 or less set aside for emergencies and 24 percent have $100 or less in savings. In addition, 48 percent have had their hours or pay cut since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of 45 elected officials, including some from the state’s three largest cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces as well as other cities and counties around the state, signed a letter sent to New Mexico’s congressional leadership Tuesday asking that all residents, regardless of immigration status, be included in the next federal relief bill. Migrants and refugees who lack social security numbers were left out of the federal relief CARES Act in late March.
Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez won the seven-way Democratic primary on Tuesday.
As of 2 a.m., Leger Fernandez had 41.89 percent of the vote, while her closest competitor, former CIA officer Valerie Plame, had 22.95 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press projected Leger Fernandez as the winner shortly before 11 p.m.
“This is a win for communities, families and workers all across our district, and I am grateful for the trust that voters have placed in our campaign’s vision for Northern New Mexico. Even in a time when we must continue to stay physically distant and so much tries to divide us, this campaign has always been about interconnectedness and coming together,” Leger Fernandez said in a statement. Related: Herrell wins GOP primary, will face Torres Small again for CD2 seat in general election
Leger Fernandez is an attorney and activist from Santa Fe who emphasized her roots in the district during her campaign. Fernandez received the support of a number of national organizations, including EMILY’s List and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was often overshadowed on a national scale by Plame, whose ads showcasing her driving skills helped get her national attention and fundraising support.
Members of Congress from New Mexico and Arizona sought answers about a $3 million contract given to a former White House staffer to supply masks to the Navajo Nation. The masks may be substandard, as the Navajo Nation deals with the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country. “The IHS facilities serving the Tribe are in dire need of PPE to combat the virus and ensure medical personnel are protected from potential exposure,” the lawmakers wrote. “Accordingly, we’re also concerned by reports that the federal contract to supply PPE to the Navajo IHS Service Area was awarded to a company established by a former senior official in the White House with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.”
Update: Masks sold by former White House official to Navajo hospitals don’t meet FDA standards
The letter, led by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, requests a number of answers from Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, the Director of the Indian Health Service.
The Navajo Nation spreads across parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. As of Tuesday, Navajo Nation health officials had confirmed 4,842 COVID-19 cases and 158 deaths related to the disease.
During a New York Times’ “Women in the Public Spotlight” discussion, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland said Congress needs more women. The New York Times invited the Albuquerque Democrat to participate in an online event called “Women in the Public Spotlight” on Tuesday as part of the Times’ recognition of 2020 as the centennial of when women’s suffrage went into effect. Congress passed the 19th Amendment, which gave white women the right to vote, in 1919. Haaland answered questions, along with Reshma Saujani, founder and chief executive of an organization called Girls Who Code and author of “Brave, Not Perfect.” Monica Drake, assistant managing editor of The New York Times hosted. Haaland said she ran because she wanted more Native American women in Congress and she said that Congress should be 50 percent women.