Debra Haaland has filed paperwork to run for Congress from New Mexico as a Democrat. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo and, if elected, would be the first Native American woman ever elected to Congress. (Campaign photo via Twitter)
Congress is supposed to represent the people. All the people. Yet in the entire history of this country there has never been a Native American woman in either the House or the Senate.
This is Trahant Reports.
Debra Haaland is campaigning to be the first. She’s running for Congress from New Mexico. So, yes, if elected, she would be the first Native American woman to ever serve in that body. What makes this news especially cool: This is a winnable seat.
Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo.
She has been working as the New Mexico Democratic Party chair for the past two years. Haaland has also been a candidate for lieutenant governor and has chaired the Laguna Development Corporation.
Her Twitter profile says: “A proud UNM Lobo mom; Pueblo woman; Marathon runner; Gourmet cook.” She also tweeted: “Thank you for the outpouring of support! Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.” She uses the hashtag, #Deb4Congress and her web site is found at debforcongress.com
Haaland said in a statement: “I’ve spent my life advocating for the underrepresented, advancing progressive values, and working tirelessly to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot. I want to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.”
New Mexico’s First Congressional District includes Albuquerque and the north-central portion of the state. It’s currently represented by Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, who won with 65 percent of the vote, and is now a candidate for governor. The seat is rated “solid” or “safe” for the Democrats.
Since this will be an “open” seat there will be a lot of competition. So the test for Haaland will be a primary election in June of next year.
That means she will need early campaign money. Rep. Grisham raised $1.8 million for her re-election in 2016, however, the last time a Republican held this seat, former Rep. Heather Wilson, raised and spent nearly $5 million.
As a former party chair, Haaland should be well-suited to take on the fundraising challenges. She has basically been raising money — albeit for others — for the past two years. She was the first Native American woman to serve as a state party chair. Money is a tough challenge, but in the last election cycle, another Native American woman, Denise Juneau in Montana, raised $2.7 million in her unsuccessful bid.
Some history: I looked up the numbers and since 1789 there have been nearly 10,300 people elected to Congress. There have been a handful of Native American men, but never a woman. By my count, at least eight Native American women have formally made a bid for Congress. None successfully.
Perhaps, now, the time is right for a Congress that really is a People’s House.
I am Mark Trahant.