As a longtime law professor and civil rights activist, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez never saw herself as a potential politician, but others did.
After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, a former law student of hers told Sedillo Lopez that her understanding of constitutional law would be of immense value in a Congress likely to be challenged by Trump’s leadership. Sedillo Lopez took the advice to heart, and after watching millions of women pour into the streets to protest Trump the day after the inauguration, she decided to jump into New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District race.
“We need someone who has a deep understanding of the Constitution and someone who knows how government works,” she said in a Journal interview. “I think that’s absolutely critical in these times with this president. I’m one of these people responding to our current crisis.”
Sedillo Lopez, 61, said as she’s traveled the Albuquerque-based district listening to voter concerns, she’s become heavily focused on a few key issues: extending legal protections for so-called Dreamers whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally, enacting Medicare health care coverage for all, expanding renewable energy, raising the federal minimum wage and pushing for bigger middle-class tax cuts.
“We have really serious economic and social problems, which leads to really serious crime problems,” Sedillo Lopez said. “I will use my experience to help provide relief for the people and the working families in this district.”
She also said that although she’s a Democrat, she views the fierce partisanship on Capitol Hill as “disturbing.” She said the current pattern of “whipsawing” from bill to bill based on whichever party controls Congress is bad for the country.
“I think our best legislation has been bipartisan – the Civil Rights Act, labor laws, trade issues,” Sedillo Lopez said. “I think we need to work on immigration jointly. As a law professor, I’m not about sound bites. I’m about communication and that is what I’ve tried to do all my life. And if we can get Congress to work together it’s going to be much more effective.”
At the same time, Sedillo Lopez suggested she may be willing to support impeachment proceedings against Republican President Trump if they arose in Congress before the end of his term.
“If we (Democrats) don’t take back the House and Senate, there will not be accountability for this president,” Sedillo Lopez said. “There is a lot of evidence, and we will see more, I think, that will justify impeachment, and nothing is happening. There is not enough integrity and accountability in the system right now, and I plan to be a very loud and powerful voice.”
Sedillo Lopez noted her long track record as an advocate for women, immigrants and the disadvantaged, including setting up free legal clinics at the University of New Mexico, serving as a member of the board of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and as president of the Southwest Women’s Law Center.
“I have a track record that far exceeds any of the other candidates,” she said.
The candidate grew up on her parents’ farm in Los Chavez. She attended the University of New Mexico and then earned a law degree from the UCLA School of Law, where she met her husband, Victor. Sedillo Lopez lives in Albuquerque and has three grown children.
She has been endorsed by the Latino Victory Fund, the NM Building & Construction Trades Council, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus PAC, The People for Bernie (Sanders) and the Working Families Party of New Mexico, among numerous state and local officials.