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.
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 opened the door to a competitive race, and a number of candidates threw their hats in the ring. Lujan Grisham led the Democratic pack in political experience, having been elected in November to a third term in Congress representing New Mexico’s first district, and she won her primary easily. She has raised more than $4.7 million in total contributions since 2017, according to The Openness Project, and has been endorsed by Emily’s List, a powerful fundraiser for women candidates.
Lujan Grisham defeated primary candidates including Jeff Apodaca, a communications executive and son of former New Mexico Governor Jerry Apodaca, and State Senator Joseph Cervantes.
In November, she faces Congressman Steve Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s second district and has a solid background in business, politics and the military, and was the only Republican candidate for governor. Pearce has raised more than $3.2 million since 2017 and had $1.9 million on hand as of July 5, compared to $873,000 for Lujan Grisham. The race is a close one — Lujan Grisham has a 42-40 lead over Pearce, according to an August poll of 500 registered voters by Emerson College of Boston.
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
June 6, 2018
Lujan Grisham Sharpens Focus on Children
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has put kids at the center of her campaign in recent weeks.
“Child wellbeing and making sure our kids grow up to achieve their full potential is the heart of why I’m running for governor,” she said in a Facebook post to supporters on Monday, after speaking an annual conference hosted by New Mexico Voices for Children. The organization works to improve economic security, educational opportunity and the overall health of New Mexican children and families.
The congresswoman has made education a priority throughout her campaign for governor of New Mexico. Her education plan calls for more resources to fund the educational system, provide universal high-quality Pre-K, improve the graduation rate, and prepare students for a higher education.
“New Mexico kids deserve better from our public education system,” she says on her website.
Lujan Grisham also denounced the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at border crossings and placing them in facilities or foster care. On June 14, the congresswoman visited a detention center in San Diego, where she condemned the operation as shameful and immoral.
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. 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.
Lujan Grisham received 66 percent of the vote on Tuesday, 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.
Meanwhile, another woman of color, Debra Haaland, whose race The Story Exchange is also following, is likely to replace Lujan Grisham in Congress next year. Last night, Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s solidly Democratic 1st Congressional District with 40.6 percent of the vote. The win takes her a big step closer to becoming the first Native American woman in Congress.
Haaland defeated former U.S. attorney Damon Martinez and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez by a landslide. She will now face Republican nominee Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran uncontested in her primary, in November.
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
June 5, 2018
Lujan Grisham in the Lead as New Mexicans Go to Primary Polls
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has a strong lead in the Democratic race for governor of New Mexico, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Despite controversy in recent weeks over income disclosures by Lujan Grisham, 57 percent of 444 registered Democratic voters polled between May 20 and May 24 favor the congresswoman. Only 15 percent support Joe Apodaca and 9 percent support Sen. Joe Cervantes.
The controversy began on May 20 during a televised debate between the three Democratic candidates for governor. During the debate, Apodaca and Cervantes accused Lujan Grisham and her business partner in a health-insurance consulting firm, Deborah Armstrong, of improperly profiting from federal and state funds. The two women founded Delta Consulting in 2008. It helps run a state high-risk pool that critics have also argued is no longer needed because plans offered under Obamacare provide similar coverage at a lower prices.
While Lujan Grisham divested from Delta a year ago, critics have called for her to release her tax returns. She initially declined to release returns for 2017 and 2018 (as has Republican candidate for governor Rep. Steve Pearce), and instead referred reporters to her congressional disclosure forms. But in an attempt to quell the scandal, Lujan Grisham on May 31 released tax returns dating back to 2013. That only fanned the flames, though, because Lujan Grisham’s 2013 return claimed $138,000 in dividend income, more than the $50,001 to $100,000 she claimed on her congressional disclosure form for that year. A spokeswoman for the Lujan Grisham’s campaign said the shortfall on the congressional form was an honest mistake.
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
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.