Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
She’s a “proud progressive” who supports the Green New Deal and a ban on fracking, and she has already made history in Congress.
Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., is seeking a second-term representing New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which includes much of Albuquerque, the Sandia Pueblo and Pueblo of Laguna, of which Haaland, 59, is a member.
She believes the focus of the next two years in Congress will be coronavirus care and relief, and addressing systemic racism and police reform. She also thinks climate change is a pressing issue.
Despite being a representative from one of the nation’s biggest oil-producing states, Haaland said droughts in the Southwest, floods in the Southeast and burning wildfires in the West are evidence that it’s time for New Mexico to rethink parts of its economy.
“We, as a state, should not be dependent on one industry for our state’s future,” she said. “In my first term serving New Mexicans in Congress, I advocated to diversify New Mexico’s economy by fighting for a renewable energy future and continuing to invest in our expanding sectors such as high tech and outdoor recreation, and helping our small businesses expand.”
Though some of her more progressive goals have been opposed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Haaland said she has strategically worked with Republicans on certain matters.
One example, she said, is her work alongside Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, who is the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus with Haaland.
Cole told the Journal he and Haaland partnered to bring substantial federal funding to aid tribal governments in their response to the coronavirus crisis, and to advance the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act in Congress. Those are bills that aim to address the prevalence of murdered and missing indigenous women.
“Beyond the incredibly special bond Deb Haaland and I share as Native Americans, part of what makes our leadership partnership work, is our ability to look toward each other for our extensive knowledge of and respect for Native American history and policy,” Cole said in a statement.
Some of Haaland’s policy beliefs put her on the more progressive side of her party.
Haaland said that a “methane cloud above New Mexico that can be seen from space,” is one reason she supports a ban on fracking. She’s also in favor of a national single-payer health system, a ban on military-style assault weapons, legalized cannabis, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and Dreamers, the Green New Deal and reproductive rights, according to her response to a Journal questionnaire.
“I oppose all restrictions on public funding that limit people’s ability to access contraception or abortion,” she said in her responses.
Haaland is running against Republican candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes, who is “pro-life” and said in her questionnaire that “banning hydraulic fracking in New Mexico would eliminate billions in surplus revenue and kill good-paying jobs.”
Garcia Holmes, a former Albuquerque police officer, recently launched a campaign ad that says defunding police doesn’t create safer communities.
Haaland, meanwhile, said she helped pass legislation in the House that was an effort to defund Operation Legend, a federal law enforcement initiative underway in several cities, including Albuquerque.
“The Department of Justice needs to regain trust in our community, and protect and serve all our communities,” she said of the defunding effort.
Haaland’s time in Congress was historic from the outset.
In 2018, she became the first of two Native American women elected to Congress. Sharice Davids, a representative from Kansas, was the other Native American woman elected that year.
Haaland was born in Arizona and grew up moving frequently to different cities and states because of her father’s career in the Marine Corps.
The family settled in Albuquerque near the end of her father’s career to be closer to family who also belong to Laguna Pueblo, Haaland said.
She graduated from Highland High School and worked at a local bakery. She enrolled at the University of New Mexico at 28 years old, graduating in 1994. She has also graduated from UNM Law School.
She has worked as the chair of the Laguna Development Corporation Board, a tribal administrator, the 2012 Obama Native American vote director, and as the chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party from 2015 to 2017. She was the 2014 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee.
She’s been upfront about her alcohol addiction. One of her first campaign ads mentioned that she was sober.
“You have 30 seconds to talk about yourself and understand who you are. I felt like by saying I’m 30-years sober that people would understand, A, I care about the addiction crisis in our country. And B, I know what addiction is like on a personal level and I’m going to fight for those needs,” she said. “And I wanted people to know that I identify with them. I am so fortunate to have the love and support of my family and my community to overcome that terrible time in my life.”