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By Elaine Burgess
Deb Haaland’s campaign headquarters are located in a small, modest stucco house adjacent to Nob Hill and the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I arrived a bit early for our appointment. She was coming out the front door as I ascended the steps, headed out for a short walk around the block and a breath of fresh air, she said. She offered to meet with me instead. I imagined that the walk would be refreshing for her after a long day, so I opted to wait inside. I entered a room furnished with a long table covered with papers and a couch at one end. The walls bore a large sign of endorsement by Firefighters, some message boards, and a couple clever cartoons done in oil paint. Beyond I could see two more rooms similarly furnished. A young man was sitting at the table engrossed with his lap top. I offered to wait in Ms. Haaland’s office. He laughed. “This is it,” he said. “Just the three rooms. We’re a team.” So I seated myself in one of the office chairs at the table. A young woman brought me a glass of water. There were just two other young people on the premises, also engaged with their lap tops. How appropriate for a Congressional candidate who eschews contributions from corporate PACs and wants to overturn Citizens United!
When she returned she pulled a desk chair away from the papers and sat near me. I explained that I wanted to get to know her. Ms. Haaland talked about her parents and her early life moving about while attending 13 different public schools. Her father served in the military. “We were a very close family,” she remarked, “because we moved so much.” As a young adult she worked in a local bakery where she learned the substantial work ethic that endures today. “I work hard,” she stated with pride. She smiled broadly when she spoke about her daughter who graduated from the University of New Mexico this year with a degree in drama and who is associated with several theaters in Albuquerque when she isn’t earning her living working in the food service industry.
Recently Ms. Haaland served as state Democratic chairwoman, and wanted to continue to help New Mexico when that effort concluded. Consulting with colleagues, she decided to run for office when the Congressional seat opened up. “I didn’t want to just make a statement,” she told me, “I wanted to win the seat. When we decided that I had a real chance at winning, I decided to do it. It will be an opportunity to do good in the world,” she continued, “and I have the confidence to make a difference.” With a steely look in her eye, and steady vocal tone she said, “I want to stop the Republicans.”
Her first priority is to deal with climate change and the environment. She believes that the fossil fuel industry is making billions by putting communities in harm’s way. Extreme weather, she believes, is creating droughts, historic flooding and forcing people out of their homes and businesses from Louisiana to Alaska. She believes in people over profits and will fight for families’ access to clean water, air and housing that makes it possible to raise families with dignity.
Other policy initiatives include concerns for income equality being out of control with the rich getting richer and working folks becoming poorer. She doesn’t believe that America is broke, but rather that the country is being pillaged by billionaires and big corporations. Ms. Haaland thinks that if we fix the imbalance in our tax system we will have surpluses to rebuild the national safety net. She will advocate for free child care and pre-k programs, a federal $15 minimum wage, expansion of social security, a paid family leave program, and exploration of a federal job guarantee, for example. National public health insurance is a model that has been proven across the world to lower costs, increase efficiency, and ensure that most people have access to health care, a human right in her view.
She understands that public education is the key to social mobility, economic security, and to sustaining democracy. In congress Ms. Haaland will fight for debt free college, universal pre-k, social services so that children can focus on learning, and increased federal funding for public schools. She does not support any federal legislation that takes funding away from public schools. She supports gender equality, and believes that the US must live up to promises it made to Veterans. She favors gun reform, believing the country must have 100% background checks to close loopholes and to rid communities of military-grade weapons. She does not think that the US Postal System should be privatized, and favors modifying previous legislation that requires the system to provide retirement funding too far in the future. “USPS is a self sustaining organization and should be commended for the job it does. It is not supported by tax dollars.”
In the current toxic Washington environment how does Ms. Haaland plan to make the changes for which she advocates, I wanted to know. “I will join the progressive caucus when I’m elected,” she stated. “There already is written legislation reflecting many of my views that can be brought forward for passage when the Democrats win the House, and hopefully the Senate. I will push forward with confidence on that legislation.”
I didn’t contest her confidence, but wondered to myself how she and her colleagues would manage to avoid presidential vetoes. The Democrats will need large majorities to over ride such vetoes! So, not only do we need to vote for Ms. Haaland, but we must also get out the vote for other Democrats here in New Mexico, and make sure that our friends and families in other states work to send Democratic legislators to offices in Washington as well.
For more information and detail about Deb Haaland’s platform, please go to her web site: www.debforcongress.com