Lujan Grisham staying focused on people
As director of the state’s Agency on Aging, Michelle Lujan Grisham had received hundreds of complaints about several nursing homes in 1997. To investigate what was happening, Lujan Grisham did what most office holders wouldn’t do.
“She went undercover and she posed as a stroke victim, a totally dependent stroke victim and she did this a couple of times and she saw the abuse and neglect,” said Dominic Gabello, Lujan Grisham’s chief of staff and campaign manager. “She stayed there for a weekend then got up and walked out one day and shut the place down, because that’s not how you’re supposed to treat people.”
Supporters say the story is one many would tell about Lujan Grisham, and shows she’s focused on the well-being of the people she represents, whether in New Mexico or Washington D.C.
“People first,” Lujan Grisham said at a campaign event during Labor Day weekend.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking to win her second term on Nov. 4th, told the supportive crowd how government and elected officials have a tendency to forget who they work for and that it’s easy to minimize the impact they’re having on people’s lives.
“I am passionate to do the reverse,” Lujan Grisham said. “Don’t ever feel like you’re a burden, it’s the other way around.”
Debbie Armstrong, a state representative in House District 17, used to work with Lujan Grisham at New Mexico’s Agency on Aging.
“She’s a tireless advocate,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong says even now, as a congresswoman, Lujan Grisham makes sure people get what they need.
“She doesn’t say, ‘oh that’s not my job’ or ‘that’s not my jurisdiction’… she’ll get it in and fight for you and fight for what’s right.”
Gabello says Lujan Grisham’s parents, who struggled to make sure Lujan Grisham’s sister was treated with dignity and respect growing up, played a huge role in the congresswoman’s life.
“Her younger sister was developmentally disabled and had a brain tumor from age 18 months. Her parent’s insurance for her sister ran through their caps by the time she was three,” Gabello said.
“Now there are no caps, but that reform came too late; Lujan Grisham’s sister had already passed away,” Gabello said.
Lujan Grisham says she now serves as a caregiver for her mother, so when she’s looking at Medicare issues, long-term care issues and financial security for women, she brings personal empathy.
“If you are taking care of your kids, taking care of your adult disabled child, caring for your in-laws, you give out first, your husband doesn’t live as long, you made less money because we don’t have paycheck equity or fairness, then you don’t have anything left at the end,” she said.
Lujan Grisham, whose husband died of a brain aneurysm in 2004, says caring for her mom and the loss of her husband and sister all drive her every day in Congress.
She admits there are people with more expertise and experience than her, but she’s been caring for others for too long to stop now.
“That’s what makes me uniquely qualified to say we need to have politics that bridge the gap and focus on a better relationship between a healthcare practitioner or provider and the patient,” she said.
Lujan Grisham also said New Mexico runs deep in her blood.
“I’m a lifelong New Mexican and I also think that makes a difference, right, because my family’s been here, we say, 12 generations, we can prove that,” Grisham said. “But my family says as many as 16 generations here in the Land of Enchantment.”
Editor’s note: this story was updated to reflect correct information on dates related to Lujan Grisham’s sister’s medical condition.[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3135″][text_output]
Congressional candidates will participate in Twitter town hall debate
The New Mexico News Port is hosting a virtual debate with U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mike Frese on Oct. 23 from 12:45 to 1:45. Tweet us your questions and follow the debate with hashtag #nm2014.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]