Debra Haaland

The Democratic Party activist is running for an open seat in the U.S. House representing New Mexico. She would become the first Native American woman in Congress.

By Zoe Searles and Riva Richmond

Editor’s Note: Our coverage of Debra Haaland is part of Running Women, a project following 15 compelling women candidates for U.S. political offices in 2018. Read the latest on her campaign below.

Debra Haaland, candidate for Congress from New MexicoDebra Haaland could become the the first Native American woman to take a seat in Congress. The former New Mexico Democratic Party chairwoman is running for an open seat representing the state’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Though Haaland has a long history as a politician in the state, this election is her biggest yet.

The district is considered safely Democratic, and incumbent Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has held the seat since 2013. But she will not run for reelection, having thrown her hat in the race for governor instead. (We are also following Lujan Grisham’s candidacy this year).

As such, Haaland’s biggest fight will likely have been the June 5 Democratic primary, which Haaland won (see below). That race initially attracted a slew of candidates, but three major contenders emerged: Haaland; Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, an anti-domestic violence advocate and former law school dean; and Damon Martinez, a former U.S. attorney.

Haaland will face Republican Janice Arnold Jones and Libertarian Lloyd Princeton in the general election on November 6. She had raised $1.1 million as of June 30, compared to just $122,000 for Arnold Jones and $56,000 for Princeton.

[Related Q&A: Deb Haaland on Bringing a Native American Voice to Congress]

In the crowded Democratic field, Haaland’s political resume has stood out. A Laguna Pueblo member, she is currently the chairwoman of the Native American Democratic Caucus of New Mexico and the former tribal administrator of San Felipe Pueblo. That resume won her an endorsement from the National Organization for Women’s political action committee (PAC) in February and a rare primary endorsement  from the Congressional Black Caucus’ PAC in January. Caucus Chair Rep. Gregory Meeks said it embraced her, although she is not black, because of her personal story and history with the party. “The opportunity to elect the first Native American woman… it is a voice we believe New Mexico needs and we know Washington, D.C. needs,” he told the Albuquerque Journal.

Haaland was raised in a military family — her mother served in the Navy and her father was a marine who received a Silver Star and the honor of burial in Arlington National Cemetery — and received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of New Mexico. A single mother to a daughter, Somah, Haaland has faced her fair share of struggles, at one point relying on food stamps to feed her family, but she persisted.

“Like so many women, I’ve worked hard and climbed the ladder in my career, and I’ve faced many moments in which I was told to get to the back of the line and had my accomplishments diminished,” Haaland said in a recent statement. “Ultimately, the best way to stop sexual harassment in Congress, and in every workplace, is to hire and elect more women.”

[Related: Emerge America is Embracing a 50-State Strategy]

Haaland in 2005 authored and led the passage of an important piece of New Mexico legislation that allows tribe members to pay lower in-state tuition rates at higher education institutions, regardless of their residency. In 2007, she received training from Emerge New Mexico, a branch of Emerge America that works to elect more women in the state.

In 2014, she became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, although she lost the general election. During her term as state party chair from 2015 to 2017, she helped flip New Mexico’s State House from red to blue. She also led the New Mexico Democratic Party’s divestment from Wells Fargo because of its investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline and was active in the Standing Rock protests. 


The Latest on the Campaign

A surge of women candidates in 2018 resulted in record numbers of women securing political office. We saw it all — wins, losses and unclear outcomes — in our Running Women project.November 7, 2018:
Women Running for Office in 2018 Achieve Record-Breaking Wins

A surge of women candidates this year resulted in record numbers of women securing political office. We saw it all — wins, losses and unclear outcomes — in our Running Women project. Read the full story.

Deb Haaland, who was among a record number of women of color running this year, won her race to represent New Mexico and will become the first Native American woman in Congress. She joined a parade of women who helped return majority control of the House to the Democrats.

 

September 6, 2018
GOP Opponent Questions Whether Haaland is Native Enough

Congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones in an interview with “Fox and Friends” questioned whether her Democratic opponent, Debra Haaland, should be considered Native American because she wasn’t raised on a reservation.

“There’s no doubt that her lineage is Laguna, but she is a military brat just like I am,” Arnold-Jones said. “I think it evokes images that she was raised on a reservation — she belongs to a Pueblo.”

The rebuke from Haaland came swiftly:

June 26, 2018
Haaland and a Millionaire Have the Same Two Cents on Tax Reform

By Carly LeMoine

Debra Haaland took aim at the tax-reform law Republicans passed last year, embracing a theme that’s increasingly being used by Democratic candidates looking to take advantage of the law’s lack of popularity with voters.

Haaland, who has long called for a repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and higher taxes on the wealthy, wrote on Facebook Monday: “Trump and the Republicans’ tax scheme only makes America great for the rich and powerful, leaving the rest of us struggling to get by.”

She tacked her comments onto a video featuring millionaire Eric Schoenberg, a member of Patriotic Millionaires, an organization of wealthy Americans who want a more inclusive economic system and share Haaland’s opposition to the tax cuts. In the video by This Now, Schoenberg explained how he would benefit from deductions under the GOP tax reform in 2018. “Under the current system, I frequently pay less as a percentage of my income in taxes than middle-class Americans who work for a living. I don’t think that’s fair and I don’t think that’s reasonable,” Schoenberg said.

While the majority of Americans will pay less under the new law, changes to income-tax brackets will only remain in effect until 2025, while cuts in business tax rates are permanent. The law also made inheritances under $11 million (or $22 million for married couples) nontaxable. A June poll conducted by SurveyMonkey, an online research firm, showed that 48 percent of adults in the U.S. approve of the law, while 47 percent disapprove.

 

June 26, 2018
Haaland Backs Clean Energy Efforts in Albuquerque

By Carly LeMoine

Reaffirming her environmental credentials, Debra Haaland got behind an initiative to fund a renewable energy project worth $25 million in Albuquerque, roughly three-quarters of which lies in the New Mexico congressional district she aims to represent.

Today, a mere 3 percent of the city runs on renewable energy. But the plan, announced on Monday, would increase the use of clean energy significantly. Its funding comes from Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, a federal initiative that provides money to renewable energy projects. The first phase — $5.2 million devoted to implementing 12 solar panels installed on government buildings — is already in the works. This phase alone is expected to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, create 135 new jobs and save taxpayers $20 million over 30 years.

Haaland praised the plan and the government officials spearheading it. “This is how we take climate change head on and create thousands of jobs for hard-working New Mexicans. We must move to 100% renewable energy,” she said in a Facebook post to supporters.

Climate and the environment is one of Haaland’s top campaign issues. She has promised to vote against any fossil fuel infrastructure bills and to advocate for clean energy alternatives. “I will promote conservation and clean energy solutions that help our earth heal, and help sustain it for generations to come so that our children and grandchildren can thrive,” she says in her platform.

June 6, 2018
Lujan Grisham, Haaland Win Democratic Primaries

By Riva Richmond

Women held and extended their gains in New Mexican politics on Tuesday night.

Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, one of four women of color running for governor in the 2018 election cycle, decisively won her primary. And Debra Haaland, another woman of color, is likely to replace Lujan Grisham in Congress. 

Last night, Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s solidly Democratic 1st Congressional District with 40.6 percent of the vote in a five-person race, besting her top competitors U.S. attorney Damon Martinez and social justice activist Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. The win takes Haaland a big step closer to becoming the first Native American woman to win a seat in Congress. She will now face Republican nominee Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran uncontested in her primary, in November.

“Our win is a victory for working people, a victory for women and a victory for everyone who has been sidelined by the billionaire class,” Haaland said in a statement. “The blue wave is coming.”

Lujan Grisham received 66 percent of the vote in her primary, defeating two men, runner-up Jeff Apodaca, who received 22 percent, and Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who won 12 percent. Lujan Grisham will face Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in the general election. She is widely expected to win in November — and become the first Democratic woman of color and first Democratic Latina elected governor in the country. She would replace a term-limited Republican Latina woman, Governor Susana Martinez.

Four in six of the state’s major-party nominees for House seats are women this year — two Democrats and two Republicans. All four women are running in two races, which all but guarantees that two women will win. That means two of New Mexico’s three seats in the House will be held by women, and New Mexico’s five-person congressional delegation will be 40 percent female.

Read our Full Primary Roundup: On Super Tuesday, Many Women Candidates Won Their Primaries. But Parity Remains Distant

May 31, 2018:
Race Too Close to Call

The Democratic primary for the congressional seat representing New Mexico’s 1st District is too close to call in the run up to the June 5 primary.

A poll of likely Democratic voters conducted by the Albuquerque Journal between May 20 and 24 showed a three-way dead heat. Roughly 22 percent of respondents favored former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, 19 percent backed Debra Haaland and 17 percent preferred Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

Given a third of these voters were undecided — and the poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points — it looks like it is anybody’s race.

 

March 12, 2018:
Debra Haaland Wins Pre-Primary Convention

By Bernadette Berdychowski

Debra Haaland rose to the top of a crowded candidate field at New Mexico’s Democratic pre-primary convention on Saturday.

She won 35 percent of party delegates’ votes, securing the top spot on the primary ballot for the 1st Congressional District’s open seat. The primary will be held on June 5.

Runner-up Antoinette Sedillo Lopez will appear on the primary ballot as well, after winning 25 percent of the vote. No other candidates surpassed the 20-percent benchmark to be listed on the ballot, though they could still be included if they collect enough voter signatures.

 

February 20, 2018:
Haaland Wins Endorsement of Feminist PAC

 

February 8, 2018:
Debra Haaland Congress candidate

(Credit: Deb Haaland campaign Facebook page)

Running Women Q&A: Deb Haaland on Bringing a Native American Voice to Congress

We spoke with New Mexico Democrat Debra Haaland about about why she’s running, her fight for jobs and the environment, the need for a Native voice in Washington and the brave women of #MeToo. Read the interview highlights.

 

January 22, 2018:
Supporters Found at Women’s March in Albuquerque

 

Posted: January 17, 2018

Zoe Searles and Riva RichmondDebra Haaland