Michelle Lujan Grisham

The New Mexico congresswoman and Hispanic Caucus chair will step down to run for an open governor seat. She would become the first Democratic woman of color to lead a state.

Riva Richmond By Riva Richmond

Editor’s Note: Our coverage of Michelle Lujan Grisham 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.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, candidate for New Mexico governor

New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has her eye on higher office in 2018. Among the country’s few Hispanic lawmakers, she is relinquishing her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to run for an open governor seat.

Lujan Grisham is part of a wave of women who are readying runs for governorships around the country, an office held by only a half dozen women today that, historically, has been a challenging post for women to win. But the 12th generation New Mexican aims to replace another woman, Republican Governor Susana Martinez, who was first elected in 2010 and will not run again due to term limits. 

In her campaign announcement video, Lujan Grisham promised New Mexicans a “new beginning” — one that will do away with Gov. Martinez’s “failed policies” and take on the state’s high unemployment, poverty and addiction rates and improve its school system. Born in Los Alamos and raised in Santa Fe, she is a single mother of two daughters, grandmother, caregiver of her mother and a widow — who would add to that list first Democratic woman of color to serve as a governor. (We are also following the race of Debra Haaland, who aims to succeed Lujan Grisham and would be the first Native American women in Congress.)

Gov. Martinez’s departure opens the door to a competitive race, however, and a number of candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. But the race is seen as leaning Democratic, and Lujan Grisham could well find an easy path to the party’s nomination. She leads the Democratic pack in political experience, having been elected in November to a third term in Congress representing New Mexico’s first district. She has already raised an impressive $2.2 million in total contributions as of Sept. 30 and has been endorsed by Emily’s List, a powerful fundraiser for women candidates.

Related: Emily’s List Aims to Seize Its Moment

Lujan Grisham’s competition in the primary includes Jeff Apodaca, a communications executive and son of former New Mexico Governor Jerry Apodaca, and State Senator Joseph Cervantes. Congressman Steve Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s second district and has a solid background in business, politics and the military, is the only Republican candidate for governor so far.

Among the 8.5 percent of Congress of Hispanic descent, Lujan Grisham currently serves as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In the House, she has focused on health policy and the elderly, and particularly on increasing veterans’ access to health care. She came to Congress with expertise in those areas, having previously served as president of a health insurance consulting business and the appointed head of New Mexico’s Department of Health as well as an attorney for the elderly and director of the state agency on aging.

Lujan Grisham has also passed legislation to help local Native American tribes, improve public schools and pay for law enforcement training. As governor, she says her priorities will remain the same, along with strengthening New Mexico’s economy. Among the people running for her House seat is Debra Haaland, who would become the first Native American woman in Congress and whose campaign Running Women is also following.

The Latest on the Campaign

April 25, 2018:
First Campaign Ad from Lujan Grisham

By Zoe Searles

New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham released her first TV and digital campaign ad ahead of the state’s June 5 primary election.

Entitled “Never Give Up,” the ad casts Lujan Grisham in a caretaking role. She talks about her experience raising two daughters by herself after the death of her husband, and highlights her political history supporting nursing home reform and school-based health centers.

But arguably the strongest theme is the one brought home by the ad’s title: Lujan Grisham’s can-do attitude in the face of adversity. “Never backing down” has been a common promise from strong women lately — examples include Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren. A recent New York Times op-ed piece explained why women stuck it out during this year’s cold and rainy Boston Marathon. As the ad closes, Lujan Grisham’s final words are: “As governor, I’ll never stop fighting, and I never give up.”

March 12, 2018:
Lujan Grisham Wins Frontrunner Status

By Bernadette Berdychowski

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham received a majority of delegate votes in New Mexico’s Democratic pre-primary convention on Saturday, marking her as the clear frontrunner to be the party’s nominee for governor.

“I am honored to have received such resounding support from Democrats across all of New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after receiving 67 percent of delegates’ votes.

The win puts Lujan Grisham at an advantage: Her name will take the most coveted spot on the Democrats’ ballot — the top of the list — when primary voters go to the polls on June 5.

The runner-up, Jeff Apodaca, a former media executive, just barely passed the 20 percent mark needed to be included on the ballot. Other candidates may be listed, but only if they collect a large number of voter signatures.

Posted: January 17, 2018

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