Alibi V.27 No.42 • Oct 18-24, 2018 

News Interview

Deb Haaland and District One

Democratic contender should be your next rep

District 1 Congressional candidate Deb Haaland
District 1 Congressional candidate Deb Haaland
Corey Yazzie

The big news with the Democratic Party: They are going to be more than a bulwark against the sloshy waves of tyrannical abuse flowing straight outta the White House and Capitol building for nigh on two years now.

The election of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will ensure that the checks and balances part of this Republic—a process you might have heard about in civics class—comes into effect.

The result of that process could well be the legitimate re-making of American government; a small bit of progressive progress if you will—away from the sharp nationalism, retreat from the world stage and notably, the retrenchment in the failures and prejudices of the past so familiar to those who’ve bewilderedly watched Trump’s ascent in America.

But today it seems that to note this election—on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018—is of historic proportions is to tread into the territory of cliché. What is at stake is what has always been at stake. Our culture is at odds with itself as it lurches forward under the weight of a dangerously out of touch presidential administration.

The fact is, very real and practical legislative priorities await lawmakers who also face the prospect of trying to undo the damage done by a GOP-backed president out of control. For those up to the challenge, the next episode in the governance of America may well comprise the rebuilding and revisioning of a more transparent, more responsive, more inclusive and ultimately more democratic union of people and cultures.

Weekly Alibi believes that Deb Haaland is up to the challenge. After resolutely sustaining her campaign through a brutal primary season against seasoned and well-equipped challengers, Ms. Haaland has demonstrated leadership qualities that will add to the formidable book of changes she takes with her to Washington in 2019.

The Democratic candidate for the open seat in New Mexico’s District 1 of the US House of Representatives stopped by the newspaper’s headquarters for a chat last week. Here’s a transcript of that meeting:

Weekly Alibi: As the the election approaches, what’s important to you as a candidate and as a citizen?

Haaland: We’re not taking one single thing for granted. We are working as if we were 20 points behind. During the primary election, I worked really hard to run an inclusive campaign. We managed to unite many divergent groups of people, from which we forged a progressive coalition. We’re taking a similar approach with the general election. My platform and the policies I’m proposing are what is important. They’re meant to include everyone in the district. We’ll continue to reach out to different individuals and groups with the goal of bringing them into the campaign.

What issues are at the forefront? What are you personally focused on as a candidate for Congress?

Climate change is definitely on the top of my list; it’s on the mind of many voters here in District 1. Renewable energy is another issue that’s very important right now, moving toward a renewable energy economy is a priority [for the N.M. economy]; we have over three hundred days of sun per year, after all. It makes sense that we should move forward with a renewable energy economy. I foresee a “green” new deal that would create jobs, get folks back to work here [in New Mexico]. Additionally, healthcare is an issue that must be addressed. Not enough people have adequate healthcare, while at the same time, Republicans have been working overtime to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. I want to protect the healthcare Americans have and expand it. I’d like to see universal healthcare in New Mexico. Of course, our public schools are always at the top of the list. We need to support our public schools; I’ve been a proponent of early childhood education for some time.

What about some of the national issues that have crept up on lawmakers due to Trump’s ascent? In particular, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seems to have become a flash-point of sorts. What’s your take on that?

Man, I am disturbed. I watched the testimony of Professor Ford in tears, like thousands of women across the country. The nation was watching. Any woman who has been assaulted, has been sexually assaulted, has experienced domestic violence, knows this story. It brought out a lot of raw emotions; it was heartbreaking. And disgusting, quite frankly, too, to watch the President of the United States mock Professor Ford in the aftermath, just to get his base going. I think that what disturbed me most about Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was that it was inconsistent about what we’ve learned about him in the meanwhile. Looking through his yearbook, listening to him deny what he was doing. To me, it was clear that he has an issue about alcohol that he is in denial about. It was lie after lie. That is not how a judge in this nation should conduct themselves.

After the election, how do you plan to reach out to Republicans who have been obstinate and obstructive on the president’s behalf? More generally, post-election, how does our government move back toward a spirit of bipartisan progress?

I feel like I’m in a unique position. I’ll be the first Native American woman to go to Congress. We’ve never had a voice like mine in that legislative body before. I feel confident about my knowledge of tribal issues; I know that there are at least two male Native American Congressmen, Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin that I can work with. Perhaps that’s a place to start, there are things we agree on. I think that Cole believes we should give tribal leaders a voice in Congress. We should be able to start a bipartisan dialogue with things that we agree upon. At the same time, I’ve spent the past 20 years here in New Mexico building relationships with many people from many parties. I think that’s an important skill I possess. I will always try to find common ground. I will work with anyone that wants to move New Mexico forward.

Are you currently working on any specific legislation as part of that effort to build bridges and move our state into the future?

I haven’t worked on any legislation yet, but there are a number of bills I would be honored to co-sponsor. As I mentioned earlier, renewable energy is a big thing with me. I’d like to see the Democrats work to create an infrastructure plan that includes renewable energy as an essential ingredient. I’d be happy to be on such a taskforce. I also want to make sure that I am on the same page as the current District 1 representative, Michelle Lujan Grisham. As a team, I am sure we can move the issues particular to New Mexico forward.

Immigration continues to be an issue. A brief statement by your Republican opponent says she favors immigration reform with a path to citizenship, but offers no real details. Meanwhile, immigrant children are still being separated from their parents, despite the efforts of progressive politicians all over the nation. How do we really get back on track with regards to immigration?

It’s quite clear that without a Democratic majority in the House, the Republicans are not doing anything to change the status quo. If the Democrats were in the majority, we would be holding the GOP’s feet to the fire, having hearings and demanding to hear their solution to this problem; asking for actual progress on the issue. We should be doing everything in our power to help reunite these families. It’s disheartening what has happened since this president took office and Republicans seem to have moved on from this issue. We [Democrats] need to win back the House; that’s a priority. We need a humane immigration policy, we need a comprehensive immigration policy. Quite frankly there should be several paths to citizenship, we shouldn’t be rounding people up, but helping them navigate the system. It should be more accessible and more affordable.

How do you feel about gun control?

I wholeheartedly stand by the students [who’ve experienced deadly gun violence]. There is no reason that we should have high-capacity magazines available to the public. Any sort of mechanism that turns regular rifles and guns into automatic-type weapons should be banned. Citizens should not have access to military-grade weapons. The ban on automatic weapons was successful! We need to put our kids needs ahead of those of the gun manufacturers and lobbyists.

Do you feel like there’s a growing cultural divide between left and right? If so, how do we heal from that, how do we become a United States of America?

The President we have in office works hard on dividing people. As long as he is in office, I don’t see the country uniting around anything, quite frankly. I mean, he’s stoking the fires of white supremacy. It’s terrible because a lot of folks that think reasonably about any number of issues are being swayed by his hateful rhetoric. And Republicans will tolerate a lot to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s the mentality we have to face. I think it’s going to take the whole country working tirelessly to get Democrats elected in 2018 and again in 2020. There’s a war on the environment. There’s a war on women and immigrants now. We have to stand our ground; we have to move forward, we have to be fierce.