Democratic candidate for Congress Deb Haaland, third from left, with campaign supporters, including Paulette Jordan, fourth from left, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho. "Native Women changing the country," a post on Twitter reads. Photo: Deb Haaland

'A victory for Indian Country': Deb Haaland secures primary win in historic run for Congress

Indian Country witnessed history on primary day as Deb Haaland secured a commanding victory in her bid to become the first Native woman to serve in the U.S. House.

Despite facing five challengers in the Democratic primary, Haaland easily won almost 41 percent of the vote on Tuesday, according to the unofficial results. The Pueblo of Laguna citizen now heads into the general election with a strong level of support in New Mexico's 1st Congressional district, home to one of the largest urban Indian populations in the nation.

"Wow," an emotional Haaland said at her campaign headquarters in Albuquerque with her family and supporters at her side.

"So tonight we made history," the candidate added to loud applause.

"Our win is a victory for working people, a victory for women, a victory for Indian Country," she said as the crowd cheered even louder.

Though Haaland must still face Janice Arnold-Jones, the Republican candidate, in November, she enjoys favorable odds. Voters in the district have sent a Democrat to Capitol Hill since 2009 and they have consistently supported Democrats in national elections, including all of the presidential races since 2000.

The Native vote played a key role in boosting Haaland's run, according to precinct results. Native Americans make up 5 percent of the population in the district, which is home to a handful of Pueblo reservations, including Laguna.

In precinct 29 in Sandoval County, for example, Haaland won 72 percent of the vote. The precinct is located at the Pueblo of Sandia, whose reservation borders Albuquerque in the north.

She won 73 percent of the vote in precinct 31 in Bernalillo County, according to the results. The precinct is home to Tohajiilee, a satellite community of the Navajo Nation.

Throughout the campaign, Haaland has "worked hard to advocate for Indian County and the Navajo Nation," Vice President Jonathan Nez said after the vote.

But Haaland enjoyed broad support throughout the district, the results showed. She secured the plurality of the vote in every county and the plurality of the vote in every precinct across the five counties, with a few exceptions.

"You are the change for which we have been waiting," Valerie Jarrett, who served as a key aide to former Democratic president Barack Obama, told Haaland in a congratulatory post on Twitter.

Gavin Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, fell short in his bid for U.S. Congress, coming in third in the Republican primary for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional district. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Elsewhere in the state, another Native candidate fell short of his Congressional aspirations. Gavin Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, lost his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2nd district.

Clarkson, who served in the Trump administration for six months last year, campaigned on a strong tribal sovereignty platform, including freedom from taxation and regulatory burdens. He secured the endorsement of the Coalition of Large Tribes, an organization that includes the Navajo Nation, whose president serves as its chair.

But Clarkson was easily locked out of the race, securing only 12 percent of the vote. Yvette Herrell, whose early lead among the four candidates proved impossible to shake, won the nomination with 49 percent of the vote.

"Together, we can Make New Mexico Great!" a post on her campaign's Twitter account reads, evoking President Donald Trump's slogan.

Herrrell will now face Xochitl Torres Small in the November election. Torres Small, whose first name means flower in the Nahuatl language, has identified with New Mexico's Hispanic population.

The seat is being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce (R), who has sponsored a number of pro-tribal bills during his time in Congress and has made the return of tribal patrimony a priority. He is now running for governor of New Mexico.

The Democratic candidate for governor is Michelle Lujan Grisham, who currently represents the 1st Congressional district and also has a favorable record on Indian issues, including support for the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. She has been endorsed by five tribes in the state.

"She is only New Mexico gubernatorial candidate to earn an endorsement from a tribe or pueblo this campaign cycle," her campaign told Indianz.Com.

Pearce has not announced any tribal endorsements. A request for comment prior to the primary was not returned.

The general election takes place November 6.

Join the Conversation
Trending in News
More Headlines