Election On the Hill Politics

New Mexico Has the Historic Opportunity to Elect First All-Female U.S. House Delegation

New Mexico voters may send a historic all-female U.S. House delegation to Congress next year. The state’s three congresswomen could all be women of color, which would be another national first.

Women are seeking the Democratic and Republican nominations in all six of the state’s primary races. At least one Latina or one Native American woman is running in each district. These women candidates have been among the highest gleaning fundraisers in their races and could all become their respective party’s nominees.

These wins would make history. In 2013, New Hampshire became the first state with an all-female Congressional delegation (Sens Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, and Reps. Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter). Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, who is a Black woman, became the nation’s first all-female of color delegation in 2017 as Delaware’s sole member of the U.S. House.

New Mexico could elect the largest U.S. House delegation of women or women of color in the nation’s history. Professor Christine Marie Sierra, who studies women in politics at the University of New Mexico, has anticipated this moment for decades.

“Women are now seen as viable candidates, and both parties in New Mexico are doing their part to recruit women to run for office,” Sierra said. “And what you see here is a reflection of the state’s diversity.”

The state’s 1st Congressional District is currently represented by one of the nation’s first Native American congresswomen, Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland. Michelle Garcia Holmes, a Hispanic former police officer, is one of three Republicans seeking to challenge Haaland for the seat, which represents the Democratic-leaning Albuquerque region.

The GOP nomination for the state’s southern 2nd Congressional District is another three-way contest currently dominated by oil executive Claire Chase and former state lawmaker and Cherokee Nation member Yvette Herrell. Both women are seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who is running unchallenged within her party.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan left his seat to run for Senate, leaving New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District up for grabs. Former CIA operative Valerie Plame and lawyer Teresa Leger Fernandez are currently leading a crowded field competing for the Democratic nomination. Navajo Nation member and businesswomen Karen Bedonie is the sole candidate running on the Republican side. Bedonie’s campaign, which she has done in total social isolation, recently garnered media attention for boosting its social media presence.

But New Mexico isn’t alone in its historic wins for women candidates. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, a record number of women have filed as candidates for U.S. House seats nationwide in 2020. In the 2018 midterm election, 476 women launched campaigns for House seats. This year, 490 women have filed as candidates.

In the past two years alone, women candidates have broken the records for the number of women running for governor, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate.

“In 2018, amidst the excitement of a record-breaking year for women candidates, we often asked whether we were in the middle of a one-time spike in candidacies driven by unique circumstances or if we were seeing the emergence of a new normal,” said Center for American Women and Politics Director Debbie Walsh in a statement earlier this year. “This is a sign that the momentum isn’t letting up.”

Sources: Associated Press 5/25/2020; Santa Fe New Mexican 5/26/2020

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