While final ballots for the presidency are still being counted, the 2020 election results so far have offered us glimmers of hope. It’s been an election of firsts: In New York, Democrats Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones became the first two openly gay Black men elected to Congress, and in Delaware, Sarah McBride became the first transgender state senator in U.S. history, among other landmark achievements across the country. Another major milestone was reached in New Mexico, which became the first state to elect all women of color to its House delegation in Washington, as reported by The Hill and CBS.
The three women elected in New Mexico include incumbent Democrat Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), who will serve her second term in Congress representing the first district; she became one of the first Indigenous women elected to Congress back in 2018. The other two women elected to the state’s House this term are Cherokee Republican Yvette Herrell, representing the state’s second congressional district, and Latina Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, representing the third congressional district.
“I’m very happy and proud that the voters of the first congressional district, once again, elected me to represent them,” Haaland tells Vogue. “There’s a lot of work that’s yet to be done before this term ends. I will be continuing a lot of work that I started into the 117th Congress; if we didn’t get legislations passed, we’ll need to start all over again, so we’ll be busy reintroducing bills and so forth.” During her time as a Congresswoman, Haaland has passed bills concerning climate change—her 30 by 30 resolution is meant to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and ocean by 2030—and putting more focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women, among other efforts.
Having New Mexico elect three women of color to the House—let alone a women-led delegation—is a big achievement for the state. “Either way, New Mexico was going to elect an all-women delegation, because every candidate was a woman,” says Haaland. “Women are 50 percent of the population in this country, and less than 25 percent of Congress. The Republican Party really needs women, so they’e probably happy that that they elected a woman here in New Mexico.”
The wins for Haaland and Herrell in New Mexico particularly fall in line with this year’s record-high number of Indigenous women who ran for office. “There’s actually three Native women in Kansas who are going to the Kansas State Legislature, so that’s very exciting,” Haaland says of the results so far. (One of Kansas’s elects is Democratic incumbent Sharice Davids, who is Ho-Chunk and was elected to Congress with Haaland two years ago.)
Going forward, Haaland says that her main priority will be addressing COVID-19 infections in the state, which have disproportionally affected Native communities. “We’re still in the middle of a horrible pandemic,” she says. “We’re still fighting the worst health crisis that our country’s ever seen. President Trump doesn’t believe in science—he’s not taking it seriously. That’s why it’s run rampant across our country. Regardless of what he does or says, it’s our responsibility as lawmakers to to pay attention to this.”
Haaland’s fellow New Mexico candidates have their own plans for Congress. Among the focuses of Fernandez’s campaign were lowering healthcare costs and combating climate change; she has spoken on the need for regenerative agriculture, more windmills, and allowing New Mexico’s Indigenous communities to have sovereignty over what occurs on their lands. (She also earned the endorsement of prominent political figures such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Herrell, meanwhile, is an ally to President Trump, and her campaign has prioritized supporting the state’s gas and oil industries (she opposes Biden’s plans to shift towards clean energy), lowering taxes, and enhancing security at the southern border.
As for the presidential race, New Mexico was called in favor of Biden, and Congresswoman Haaland remains optimistic that that will be the case for the country as a whole. “We have had several victories already this morning,” she says. “We need to be patient and count all the votes.”