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Photo courtesy of James Campbell

Photo courtesy of James Campbell

Women involved in politics speak at UNM

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Antoinette Sedillo Lopez worked for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in "the early 2000s." It has been corrected to say "the late 1990s." The Daily Lobo apologizes for the confusion.

The University of New Mexico College Democrats held a panel, featuring women involved in politics in New Mexico, at the Student Union Building earlier this month.

The event, Women in Politics, featured a panel made up of Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Deb Haaland, both running for a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, State Rep. Deborah Armstrong from District 17 and Melanie Stansbury, running for District 28, Elizabeth Keller, political organizer and wife to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Felisha Salazar, communications director for the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

The panelists discussed inequalities and challenges they face as women in their field.

Rachel Montoya, treasurer of College Democrats, said the group wanted to host the event to engage a conversation between students and many of the women currently in the political spotlight.

“It’s hard to navigate this field, for young women especially,” Montoya said. “Since a lot of the members of College Democrats are women, we wanted to have this conversation to help them and other students.”

Stansbury said that young people are very important in politics, adding that some of the largest recent protests, such as those for gun reform since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, have been led by young people.

“These young people have ideas, and their ideas are big and they’re going to change the world,” Stansbury said.

While unable to attend the event, current U.S. Representative and 2018 candidate for New Mexico Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a video giving her remarks.

“The biggest mistake of my career was not participating in politics early,” Grisham said. She added that the only way to solve many of the large issues in America — such as gun control, healthcare and education — is by getting more women directly engaged.

Grisham also talked about the nation-wide movement of women getting involved in politics. She said that having President Donald Trump in the White House has upset many women and moved them to take political action.

The panelists also shared some of the challenges they have experienced while campaigning.

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Lopez said she was the state director for the Bill Clinton campaign in the late 1990s. She said that she was not the top pick for the job and definitely was not treated like it. Even once she got the position, the challenges continued.

“They wanted you to think a certain way, and that way was pretty male-focused,” Lopez said.

Armstrong added to this, saying as a female campaigning for office, it is harder to raise money and earn votes. She said women are held to a higher standard on the campaign trail.

“Women have to be asked multiple times to run for office in the first place, because they often don’t think they’re good enough,” Armstrong said.

She said women in politics will already be judged differently, so it is important to be your true self, trust your gut instincts and not be too hard on yourself.

Keller stressed that being a woman involved in politics does not just mean running for office. She said the kind of work she loves is behind the scenes or out in the field campaigning for another candidate.

Other topics discussed at the event included feminism, unfair treatment of women in the workplace, the importance of mentoring young women and the gender pay gap.

The panelists said they agreed that women’s issues are everyone’s issues and that they need to be addressed. While some progress has been made in the past year or so, these women said it cannot stop here.

“Don’t run away from issues that are important to women, and don’t apologize for speaking up on those issues,” Armstrong said.

Catherine Stringam is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @cathey_stringam.

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