A UNM alumna has announced that she will make a ballot bid in 2014’s state elections.
Democrat Debra Haaland said at a press conference in early December that she intends to run for her party’s nomination for lieutenant governor of New Mexico.
Haaland said she has steadily been on the political scene in New Mexico for 10 years.
“I decided to run because I have a deep passion for service,” she said. “I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude to the Democratic Party for all the things that we’ve gotten over the years.”
According to a press release, Haaland served as a New Mexico delegate to the 2008 National Convention in Denver. She currently serves as chairwoman of the Native American Democratic Caucus of New Mexico and as chairwoman of the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, according to the release.
Haaland earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1994 and a Juris Doctorate from UNM in 2006.
New Mexico State Senator Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, who is running for state auditor, said he supports Haaland because of her range of political skills.
“She has a rare combination in state politics that is hard to come by,” he said. “She’s an excellent campaigner, and she knows how to win. But she also really knows her stuff when it comes to policy and how to help our state.”
Keller said he considers Haaland’s experience in the Native American community important because it has given her experience with rural New Mexico.
“Most politicians and people running for office are from Albuquerque or Santa Fe, even Las Cruces,” he said. “It’s always good to have someone who understands rural New Mexico. And she does, without a doubt.”
Haaland said she plans to focus on early childhood education as a major issue in her campaign.
“We have a really low graduation rate, and it’s low among Native American communities as well,” she said. “I think that’s the large issue. It doesn’t happen just in your senior year of high school — you have to really find an approach long before that.”
Though her plans for higher education aren’t entirely developed yet, Haaland said she plans to look into increasing affordability for students.
“We really want to help as many students as we can,” she said. “I’ll have to look at all of that. But certainly, I think there’s probably more that can be done to increase the ability of kids to go to school. My daughter is on the Lottery Scholarship right now. If it wasn’t for that, it would be very difficult for me to send her to school.”
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, who is running for state governor, said that while he does not want to endorse anyone this early in the race, he considers Haaland to be a quality candidate.
“I think, at this stage in the campaign, I’m supportive of good people getting in to the race, and I think that Debra is a good person,” he said.
New Mexico Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said he has known Haaland for about 10 years.
“She’s done very well with regard to business and rising to the level of being the head of Laguna Development,” he said. “She was one of the main people in the Obama campaign, back in (2008) and (2012). Those are big achievements. She’s been to the White House as a result of her campaign capability.”
Haaland said she plans to travel and speak to New Mexicans across the state during her campaign.
“We’re going to talk to as many voters as we possibly can, we’re going to hear the stories and find out what it is that New Mexicans care about and want to have changed,” she said. “We’re going to work hard for this thing.”