New Mexico Could Soon Have An All Women of Color Congressional Delegation

Supermajority Education Fund

June 16, 2020

New Mexico is likely to elect an all-women of color Congressional delegation this November, which would make the state home to the largest all-women delegation in U.S. history. As the Albuquerque Journal reports, the state’s three congressional races will feature female candidates from both major parties on the ballot in November.

Democratic Representative Deb Haaland — who made history in 2018 when she became one of the first Native American women to be elected to Congress — will face Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes in the 1st Congressional District, while fellow Democratic incumbent Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is opposed by former Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell, a member of Cherokee Nation, in the 2nd Congressional District. A seat in the state’s 3rd Congressional district is also now open due to Rep. Ben Ray Luján running for Senate, and Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez is running against Republican Alexis Johnson, who is Hispanic, to fill it. Barring an upset win by third-party candidate Steve Jones in the 2nd Congressional district, the delegation will consist of all women in January.

As the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University notes, New Hampshire became the first state to have an all-women Congressional delegation in 2013; both the state’s senators and its two congressional representatives were all women. Hawaii has also had all-women and all-women of color House delegation several times, the first being in 1990 with Reps. Patsy Mink (D) and Patricia Saiki (R). Delaware and Wyoming each have one seat in Congress, and women currently represent both states.

“The fact that we can talk about these individual cases is an example of how rare it is,” CAWP’s director Debbie Walsh told Supermajority News. New Mexico joining these cases, however, “would still be an important and significant sign of progress for women’s representation in Congress,” Walsh added.

What’s more, New Mexico achieving this feat would be uniquely significant because its delegation is both larger and more diverse than New Hampshire and Hawaii. Walsh added this achievement would be the result of years of work. New Mexico has elected women governors in recent years; Republican Susana Martinez was elected in 2011 and current Democratic governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected in 2018. 

“Latinas have a history of leading in the state of New Mexico,” said Walsh, noting that it is easier to recruit candidates for congressional races when there are women elected officials on the state and local level. “This is not something that happens overnight.”

Studies have also shown that when women run and are supported politically, other women candidates are more likely to follow their lead. “When you start to see this kind of representation, it opens up a world of possibilities for other people to follow in their footsteps,” said Walsh. “That is why it is so important for these breakthroughs to happen.”