On Thursday, one of the first openly transgender people to seek a New Mexico legislative seat, Bunnie Benton Cruse, announced her intent to replace Rep. Melanie Stansbury for the state House. Stansbury is the Democratic nominee in the June 1 special election for the state’s 1st Congressional District, a seat Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland vacated when she left the U.S. House of Representatives to take the federal position. Benton Cruse will apply to the Bernalillo County Commission, which will decide who to appoint to HD 28 if Stansbury wins June 1 and leaves the seat. Benton Cruse said she went public with her intention to apply for the HD 28 seat before the June 1 special election because she believes Stansbury will win. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, called Benton Cruse’s decision to seek Stansbury’s seat “historic.”
The special election to fill the now-vacant 1st Congressional District will take place on June 1. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced the date and said she would formally issue the special election proclamation on Thursday. The seat, which is centered in the Albuquerque area, is now vacant because Deb Haaland resigned earlier this week to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Joe Biden. “Deb Haaland’s historic confirmation as the nation’s first Native American cabinet secretary is a proud moment for all New Mexicans, but it also kicks off another important election cycle of which every eligible voter in Congressional District 1 should be aware,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Now that Election Day is set, I encourage anyone interested in seeking the office to familiarize themselves with the laws and procedures outlined in the Election Code.
Deb Haaland delivered her final speech in Congress on Tuesday. Haaland resigned from her congressional seat a day after her confirmation as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. “I thought I would have more time here, but we are called to service in different ways. Though I’m excited to become the first Native American cabinet secretary in history,” she said. “I’m also sad to leave this chamber.”
She won her second reelection in the 1st Congressional District last November, then President Joe Biden picked her to head the Secretary of the Interior.
With U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, her replacement in Congress will be chosen through a special election that will be held later this year. State law says the Secretary of State must declare a special election within ten days of a vacancy. The election date will be held between 77 and 91 days after the declaration. Major party candidates will be selected by the party’s central committees in the district, based on party rules. Each party will inform the Secretary of State 56 days ahead of the election who will be that party’s nominee.
The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior on a 51-40 vote Monday afternoon. With the vote, Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, became the first Native American cabinet-level official in U.S. history and put her in charge of a sprawling department with key interactions with sovereign tribal governments. The Interior Department is the parent agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Thank you to the U.S. Senate for your confirmation vote today,” Haaland said on Twitter after the vote. “As Secretary of @Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you.
The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead the Interior Department. The committee voted 11-9, with Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting along with Democrats, to send the nomination to the full Senate. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico was among the Democrats who voted to advance Haaland’s nomination. “I am pleased that Congresswoman Haaland’s confirmation is advancing, and I am eager for the full Senate to take up her nomination so she can get to work protecting our natural heritage for future generations,” Heinrich said. Heinrich, a second-term Senator, has been a key voice supporting Haaland’s nomination.
In another sign that U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Interior, a Republican announced she would vote in favor of confirmation. Maine’s Susan Collins told HuffPost that she would vote for the confirmation. “After examining Representative Deb Haaland’s qualifications, reviewing her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and meeting with her personally, I will vote to confirm her to be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior,” Collins told the news outlet. Haaland would become the first Native American cabinet-level official once confirmed. She was one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress, along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, in 2018.
The most significant news for U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s Interior Secretary nomination didn’t come during the second day of her confirmation hearing, but afterwards. That’s because U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, announced he would vote in favor of her nomination. With an evenly split 50-50 chamber between those who caucus with Democrats and Republicans, Manchin has an outsized influence on nominations. Manchin is also the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which held the confirmation hearing for Haaland this week. The committee also has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
In U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s opening remarks during her confirmation hearing for Secretary of the Interior, she noted that she has a “unique” story. “Although today I serve as a member of Congress and was the vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, if confirmed, I would be the first Native American to serve as cabinet secretary,” she said in her opening remarks. “This historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say it’s not about me.”
Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo and when first elected in 2018, became one of the first two Native American women in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with Sharice Davids, a Democrat from Kansas, who was elected in the same year. Haaland is a staunch progressive and has advocated for stronger environmental protections, including on public lands and related to oil and gas exploration. She also vowed to “listen and work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle” if confirmed.
Included in this was an introduction from Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska, who referred to Haaland as his friend and said that if confirmed, she would be a voice in the cabinet that would listen to all perspectives.
A bipartisan bill that would create new procedures to fill a vacant congressional position in New Mexico — perhaps soon enough to apply to the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland — cleared its first committee Monday. The Senate Rules Committee, on a 6-5 vote, advanced Senate Bill 254, sponsored by Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque. The measure would add a special primary election and special general election to fill a congressional vacancy. Under existing state law, the New Mexico secretary of state calls for a special election after a vacancy occurs, and then each major political party’s central committee nominates a candidate. The bill was born out of the possible vacancy that would be created in the 1st Congressional District if the U.S. Senate confirms Haaland to serve as President Joe Biden’s interior secretary.