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This Progressive New Mexican Could Become the First Native-American Woman in Congress

Deb Haaland is running on a platform of Medicare-for-all, marijuana decriminalization, and renewable energy.

As the previous chair of New Mexico’s Democratic Party, Deb Haaland—an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna and the first native woman in the country to chair a state Democratic Party—helped lead the charge to flip the state house. If she’s elected this fall to represent New' Mexico's relatively progressive first congressional district, she will become the first Native-American woman in Congress.

Having garnered endorsements from sitting members of Congress, including Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Haaland is running a campaigning on a platform that includes Medicare for All, protecting DACA, legalizing marijuana and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. She also aims to scale up renewable energy as an engine for job creation. On Thursday, the climate advocacy group 350 Action endorsed Haaland, along withMaryland gubernatorial candidate and former NAACP head Ben Jealous, in the organization's first backings of the cycle.

In These Times spoke with Haaland by phone this week about her campaign, her time at Standing Rock and what changes she thinks need to be made to the Democratic Party.

Kate Aronoff: What motivated you to run?

Deb Haaland: I love my state so much. I was chairwoman of the state party, and I finished my term in April of 2017 and announced shortly after that. I wanted to continue to feel like I was serving the people of New Mexico.

Kate: Can you talk about your time as chair of state party?

Deb: We have a Republican governor right now, Susana Martinez. She has not done the best job for our state. So, in 2014 I ran for Lieutenant Governor, and ended up being on the ticket with the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who ran against her—Gary King. We lost in the general election, even though she’d been a terrible governor. We weren’t getting the message out well enough.