Haaland says culture big part of campaign focus

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Haaland says culture big part of campaign focus

If Democratic candidate Deb Haaland is elected as New Mexico’s lieutenant governor Nov. 4, she would be the first Native American to hold that position.

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo who has spent most of her life in Albuquerque says her values remain rooted in her native traditions.

New to candidacy, not to politics

Haaland has been involved in political campaigns for 10 years. In 2004, she worked as a full-time volunteer in 2004 on the John Kerry campaign. She also worked in support of the Barack Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, alongside her daughter who has helped with campaigns since she was nine years old.

During the 2012 election, Haaland was the state Native American director for Organizing for America New Mexico, a organization that supported the Obama campaign. Her efforts helped increase the vote in Native American precincts by 60 percent, she said.

“It’s a Constitutional right and people should get out to vote,” Haaland said.

Not only does Haaland want to represent Native Americans, she also wants to be a good example for women and girls.

“There are not a lot of women in leadership roles in Native American communities,” Haaland said. “I would like to see more Native American women run for office and have opportunities to make decisions.”

Being elected as the first Native American lieutenant governor would not be the first time Haaland has made history. She currently is the first chairwoman of the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, a group that is in charge of the economic development of the Laguna pueblo.

The duties on that board would vary from those of the lieutenant governor, who serves as governor when the chief executive is out of the state.

“The lieutenant governor is the president of the state Senate so they preside over what’s going on in the state Senate of New Mexico, they will act as governor when the governor is not in the state…beyond that they have a fairly limited portfolio of responsibilities,” said Timothy Krebs, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico.

A cultural affinity for the environment

Haaland says she expects her cultural values to influence her leadership.

“I feel like I have certain values I have learned from my culture, like respect to the environment,” Haaland said. “I would love to bring that with me to the lieutenant governor’s office.”

She says her dad would take her fishing and they would walk along the banks and beaches. He taught her to appreciate the environment, she said.

As an elected official, Haaland says, she’d like to spotlight environmental issues and solutions. For example, she says, New Mexico could use a stronger anti-litter program.

Haaland is paired on the ballot with Democrat Gary King. The duo is running against Republicans Gov. Susana Martinez and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.

So far, Krebs said the race is looking difficult for King and Haaland.

“It’s a tough road for them right now, they’re behind in the polls right now, and they’re certainly behind in terms of raising money for their campaign. It makes it difficult for them to compete with an incumbent governor who is well funded….its going to be a tough climb for them I think, but anything can happen…something big has to happen in the next three weeks to turn this around,” Krebs said.

Martinez’s campaign has raised over $6 million compared to King’s campaign, which has has raised around $1 million.

The value of hard work
Haaland says her mother and grandmother taught her the importance of working hard.

Part of her work ethic stems from starting to work as a 14-year-old after school for Zinn’s Bakery in southeast Albuquerque. After graduating high school she worked at the bakery for 10 years. It wasn’t until she was 28 she entered the University of New Mexico, where she later graduated with a degree in English with a focus on professional writing. Four days after her college graduation, Haaland’s daughter was born.

As a single mother, Haaland wanted to find something to do where she could stay home with her daughter so she started a salsa company out of her home kitchen. She says that while the company did not do very well, it was enough to support her and her daughter.

After Haaland received her first degree, she decided to go to UNM Law School and graduated in 2006. She took her daughter with her to all of her classes.

“She grew up in front of college professors and lectures,” Haaland said.

Haaland is looking forward to elections this year and still wants to get Pueblo districts involved in voting.

“Indian vote is very important to me this time around,” she said.

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Lieutenant governor at a glance

Description: Serve as governor when she or he is out of the state; preside over the Senate and vote in case of tie votes.
Salary: $85,000
Term: four years
Incumbent: John Sanchez