Politic365.com recently had the opportunity to speak with Michelle Lujan Grisham, a candidate for congress in New Mexico’s First Congressional District. This race is one to watch because there are two noted progressives, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Eric Griego, both in a dead heat. And former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez is also in the race, trying to cast himself as above the negative fray.
This race is also compelling from the perspective of Hispanic representation. There are three Hispanics running on the Democratic side, and this is a race to replace Congressman Martin Heinrich, who is running for the Senate. 46 percent of New Mexicans are of Latino heritage, so if demographics are destiny, it would make sense for there to be more opportunities to increase representation. Whoever wins the Democratic primary race on Tuesday will face Janice Arnold-Jones, who is running unopposed on the GOP side.
With the economy lagging, Lujan Grisham took the opportunity to explain how she would create jobs for the people in her district if she is elected in November. While New Mexico’s unemployment rate is slightly below the national average, people are still feeling the effects of the economy in the land of enchantment.
“We have a limited ability to do anything without jobs,” explained Lujan Grisham. “There are several things that I would do. One is to support the President’s effort to build and repair infrastructure. I would also propose building more hospitals, as New Mexico is short on hospital beds. Second, I would make sure that we are incentivizing small businesses to employ people. This can be done with tax breaks. And third, we cannot allow people to export jobs out of the country — we need to close corporate loopholes.”
Lujan Grisham was once in charge of the state of New Mexico’s Department of Public Health, which is why hospitals and health care have been themes in her campaign. Her work in public health has also made her the target of an independent expenditure ad and an ad run by the Griego campaign that criticized her role in overseeing a medical center with substandard conditions.
She also mentioned that she wants to build up the use of solar energy in her district “to keep people off the grid.” One of her goals is to build upon what exists at Sandia National Labs and to encourage investment in the private sector which ultimately builds a high tech/green jobs community in Albuquerque.
When asked how she felt about her chief opponent’s driving and arrest record, Lujan Grisham highlighted her electability. Within the past few weeks, it has been revealed that Griego was the subject of at least 11 arrest warrants for traffic violations. He also failed to appear to court hearings and missed driving school, while serving as a state senator.
Back in 1998, he was arrested in Dallas for driving under the influence and pleaded guilty. Griego’s campaign has indicated that the fines and warrants have been paid and addressed. These revelations about drunk driving and failure to appear in court are somewhat ironic given that New Mexico once had a notorious reputation for drunk driving offenses.
In the interview, Lujan Grisham steered clear of attacking Griego personally but instead reasoned, “This is a tough swing vote district, so electability matters. Voters will have to ask, ‘Am I electable?’ while considering the candidates’ long term viability and integrity.” Because this district was represented by former Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson for over ten years and in recent presidential elections, it barely leans Democratic. The current Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich was only first elected in 2008.
Other issues that Lujan Grisham touched upon included the “war on women” and the impact that the Citizens United decision was having on her race. She cited her support for Roe v. Wade, noting that this decision is always at risk. If elected to congress, Lujan Grisham would forge relationships with like minded members to preserve a woman’s access to reproductive care and the right to choose. And in terms of the Citizens United decision, she would support a Constitutional Amendement to overturn it, citing the work of Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
Voters will decide on Tuesday who will advance in the Democratic primary to face Janice Arnold-Jones in November. The battle for New Mexico’s First Congressional District will certainly continue to be tough given the bruises that the Democrats have sustained in attacking each other in the primary.