U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has decided to change things up and run for governor of the state of New Mexico.
“Serving in Congress has immersed me in the challenges New Mexicans are facing — and I want to do more,” Grisham said in an interview with the Daily Lobo.
Lujan Grisham has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the last six years, where she has sat on the budget committee and agriculture committee. This year, she is running in the New Mexico Democratic primary election for governor.
She is running against Democratic Party members Joseph Cervantes and Jeff Apodaca. Steve Pearce — a fellow member of the US House of Representatives from Southern New Mexico — is running as the Republican candidate for governor.
Lujan Grisham grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and received her law degree at the University of New Mexico. Before serving in Congress, she was elected to the Bernalillo County Commission, and has also served as the state’s Secretary of the Department of Health.
She said she is running for governor because she is unhappy with the current system and believes she can get more done at the state level as governor than in Congress.
“The number one thing we’ve got to do is make sure we’re ready to grow the economy, because people are hungry for jobs — we’ve got some of the worst unemployment rates — and we have to get that done,” she said.
She said she will achieve this through her “Jumpstart” plan, which aims to raise minimum wage to $12, change the procurement code, invest in local business, make New Mexico a clean energy state, among other initiatives.
Lujan Grisham also discussed her “Build New Mexico” plan, which will expand programs in areas like technology, cybersecurity, health and sciences, agriculture, tourism, renewable energy, aerospace and digital media and film. She said New Mexico has already been excelling in many of these areas, but the state has potential to do even better.
She wants to work on improving the state universities, creating four centers of excellence — focusing on bioscience at UNM, agriculture at New Mexico State University, cybersecurity at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and sustainable and renewable energy at San Juan College.
Lujan Grisham also said she wants to lower costs of tuition for colleges in New Mexico and work on student debt.
“We have created an environment where college students have to work to go to college, and they’re barely making enough money to even pay rent,” she said.
She said the lottery scholarship has been decreasing for students because the revenue from the state lottery has been declining heavily over the years. Rather than raising the scholarship back up, she said the solution is to find other sources of revenue to help lower tuition costs.
“Another thing we have to do is we have to make sure students are college ready, and we haven’t been doing that,” Lujan Grisham said.
She added that in the last couple of years, New Mexico has become one of the lowest ranked states in education, and the state public school system needs to take a new direction. She said she wants to limit school testing, give teachers a raise and increase graduation rates in the state.
Deputy Campaign Manager Victor Reyes said he has spent a large part of his life fighting for progressive candidates and causes, and it has been an honor for him to work on Lujan Grisham’s campaign. He added that after working with her in the past, he wanted to do everything he could to get her elected to the office of governor.
“I've seen first hand the incredible passion she puts into everything she does and I know just how much she cares about this state,” Reyes said.
He said the campaign has been an exciting one and they have seen lots of support from all over the state.
“I know Michelle will be tireless in ensuring that we become a state, not just of enchantment, but also of opportunity, of renewable energy, of affordable and quality healthcare, and of a diverse and sustainable economy,” Reyes said.
Catherine Stringman is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cathey_stringam.