By Leila Fadel and Talia Wiener/NPR
On a recent afternoon in Albuquerque, N.M., Deb Haaland sits with a thick stack of paper in front of her, calling donors to thank them for their contributions and to ask them for more money. After winning her Democratic primary, Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is running for the U.S. House in a strongly Democratic district in New Mexico. That means she may soon be the first Native American woman in Congress.
“Somebody has to be the first,” she says as she walks through the southeast neighborhood where her office is. “Native women, I mean we’ve been on the frontlines for a long, long time. Think of all the native women who have fought for treaty rights and fishing rights and all of those things.”
Haaland worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign before chairing the state’s Democratic Party. But after thinking a woman would become president in 2016 and feeling let down, she says she decided to run for federal office. Because she says, she understands what it is to be working class in the United States. “I identified with so much of what people go through in this district and in the state. Half of our population is Medicaid eligible,” she says. “I know what it’s like to be on food stamps. My daughter and I both are paying off our student loans. So, I just felt like I know what it’s like and we need more people who know what it’s like to struggle.”