After a long career in New Mexico at the state and local level, Michelle Lujan Grisham won election to the United States House of Representatives in 2012. During her three terms in Congress, Lujan Grisham focused on expanding access to health care, investing federal resources into local communities, and working to find bipartisan solutions. Lujan Grisham’s extended family had been involved in the state’s politics for years, and after her victory she promised to carry on that work for New Mexico. “I come from a long line of leaders in the community,” she said, “and I plan to make that legacy continue.”1
Michelle Lujan Grisham was born Michelle Lujan in Los Alamos, New Mexico, on October 24, 1959. Her father, Buddy, was a dentist, and her mother, Sonja, was a caregiver. Lujan Grisham’s sister, Kimberly, was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a child and passed away at the age of 21. Lujan Grisham graduated from St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1977, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico in 1981. She later returned to the University of New Mexico to earn a law degree in 1987. After law school, Lujan Grisham worked as an attorney and a business executive. She married Gregory Alan Grisham in 1982 and the couple raised two daughters: Taylor and Erin. Gregory Grisham died in 2004.2
In 1987 Lujan Grisham became director of the state bar of New Mexico’s lawyer referral program for the elderly. Four years later, in 1991, New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Bruce King appointed Lujan Grisham director of New Mexico’s state agency on aging, which grew to a cabinet-level department under her leadership. In one case, Lujan Grisham went undercover as a stroke victim at a senior facility to get a firsthand account of how residents and patients were treated. After her investigation, she lobbied for greater regulatory authority.3 Lujan Grisham also served with King’s successor, Republican Gary Johnson, who promoted her to secretary of aging and long-term services from 2002 to 2004. When Democrat Bill Richardson was elected governor in 2005, he appointed Lujan Grisham as New Mexico’s secretary of health, where she served for two years.4
Lujan Grisham resigned as secretary of health in October 2007 to run for federal office. When incumbent Representative Heather Wilson announced her campaign for the Senate, Lujan Grisham entered the race to fill her seat in the House. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan featured prominently in the race; Congress had spent years focused on issues overseas, but Lujan Grisham wanted lawmakers to work on concerns at home. “There’s no attention to any domestic issues, from education, to health care reform, to economic security, to job development, to business development,” she said. “And it has really weakened this country.”5 Lujan Grisham lost the crowded primary to Martin Heinrich, the former president of Albuquerque’s city council, who went on to win the House seat in November. After the campaign, Lujan Grisham opened a consulting firm. In 2010 she won a seat on the Bernalillo County board of commissioners, where she served for two years.6
When New Mexico Senator Jesse Francis (Jeff) Bingaman Jr. declined to run for re-election in 2012, Heinrich announced his bid for the Senate, and Lujan Grisham entered the race to fill Heinrich’s seat in the House. New Mexico’s First District, which traditionally voted Republican, encompassed most of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, as well as small slices of nearby areas.7 Lujan Grisham won the Democratic primary with 40 percent of the vote, and faced former Republican state legislator Janice Arnold-Jones in the general election. “I think … that we have a message that’s resonating with the middle class that we’re focusing on jobs and the economy,” she said, pointing to her campaign’s “momentum” following the primary election.8 Lujan Grisham called for a tax overhaul, national infrastructure projects, private sector job creation, comprehensive immigration reform, and investments in renewable energy. On Election Day, Lujan Grisham won 59 percent of the vote. She was the third woman and first woman of Hispano descent to represent New Mexico in Congress. She won re-election twice with no less than 58 percent of the vote.9
During her first term in the 113th Congress (2013–2015), Lujan Grisham was assigned to three committees: Agriculture; Budget; and Oversight and Government Reform. She left Oversight in the 115th Congress (2017–2019) but rose to become Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research—key issues for her district. Lujan Grisham also served on the Democratic Whip team and chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during the 115th Congress.10
In the House, Lujan Grisham worked on policy she knew well, especially health care services for the elderly and people with disabilities. “Our constituents have lost faith in us, and we have to look like and be able to relate to the people who are voting for us,” she said in an interview with Politico in early 2013. “So as a single mom and a widow and a caregiver and a small-business owner, I related to those folks and those hardships, and that’s given me a unique perspective about how things have to change.”11
In each of her three Congresses, she introduced the National Care Corps Act, which funded grants for volunteers who provided services for people in need.12 In the 115th Congress, Lujan Grisham’s measure was added to an appropriations bill which became law in October 2018 and provided $5 million for the National Care Corps.13 “As a caregiver myself, I know how tough it can be to care for a loved one,” she said, noting that the “caregiving volunteer program” had been one of her main concerns in the House. The program, she added, “will help address the increasing demand of caregiving in New Mexico and the nation.”14
New Mexico is home to large swaths of public land, and Lujan Grisham regularly worked on land-use issues in Congress. In 2014 her bill requiring the General Services Administration to give federal land to an Albuquerque high school foundation passed the House and later became law after the Senate passed the same bill introduced by New Mexico Senator Thomas (Tom) Udall.15 Similarly, in June 2014, her Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act—which conveyed 700 acres of federal land to the Pueblo of Sandia in exchange for a smaller tract and a conservation easement—became law following the passage of the Senate’s version of the same bill.16
Lujan Grisham also used the amendment process during debate to seek funding for certain programs. Amid consideration of the Justice Department appropriations bill for the 2015 fiscal year, for instance, Lujan Grisham’s amendment securing $2 million for mental illness issues in the court system passed the House. She introduced the same amendment in the 114th Congress (2015–2017), as well.17 In 2018 her amendment to another appropriations bill securing $5 million for development in distressed neighborhoods also passed the House.18 Additionally, Lujan Grisham made veterans issues a priority in the House, sponsoring legislation to improve health care and accountability in the Veterans Affairs Department.19
In December 2016, not long after winning re-election to the House, Lujan Grisham announced her candidacy for governor of New Mexico in 2018.20 Her campaign focused on New Mexico’s economy; she promised to raise the minimum wage and to revise a state tax credit for the movie industry to draw more production companies to New Mexico.21 She won the Democratic primary easily with 66 percent of the vote, and faced Republican U.S. Representative Stevan Pearce in the general election. In November 2018, Lujan Grisham won with 57 percent of the vote, becoming the second Hispanic woman to serve as governor of New Mexico.22
Lujan Grisham resigned from the House on December 31, 2018. She was sworn in as governor on January 1, 2019, where she continues to serve.23
1James Monteleone, “Lujan Grisham Wins,” 7 November 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A6.
2“Michelle Lujan Grisham,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; Kent Walzsenior, “Energetic and All In,” 15 July 2018, Albuquerque Journal: A1; Walter Rubel, “3 Dems Vie for Governor Nomination,” 27 May 2018, Las Cruces Sun-News (NM): A7; Christopher Snow Hopkins, “New Mexico, 1st House District: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D),” 6 November 2012, The Atlantic, https://www. theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/new-mexico-1st-district-michelle-lujan-grisham-d/429390/.
3Wren Propp, “Agency Anonymously Checks Shelters,” 4 February 1997, Albuquerque Journal: A1.
4“Michelle Lujan Grisham,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Leslie Linthicum, “Life Rooted in Public Service, Grisham Says,” 27 April 2008, Albuquerque Journal: A6; Matt Andaloza, “Dauntless & Driven: Following Her Passion For Advocacy Fuels Commissioner’s Career,” 5 June 2011, Albuquerque Journal: 5; Seung Min Kim, “Sister’s Death Drives Lujan Grisham,” 17 January 2013, Politico, https://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/michelle-lujan-grisham-profile-086137.
5Jeff Jones, “Grisham Jumps Into 1st District Race,” 12 October 2007, Albuquerque Journal: A1.
6“Martin Heinrich,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; New Mexico secretary of state, “Voting and Elections: Past Election Results, 2008,” accessed 5 September 2019, https://www.sos.state.nm.us/voting-and-elections/election-results/past-election-results-2008/; Walzsenior, “Energetic and All In”; Sue Major Holmes, “Democrats, Republicans Choosing 1st District Nominees,” 4 June 2008, Associated Press; Sean Olson, “Michelle Lujan Grisham Running for Congress,” 17 August 2011, Albuquerque Journal: C1; Dan McKay, “Familiar Faces on Commission Ballot,” 20 May 2010, Albuquerque Journal: 1; New Mexico secretary of state, “Voting and Elections: Past Election Results 2010,” accessed 5 September 2019, https://www.sos.state.nm.us/voting-and-elections/election-results/past-election-results-2010/; Rachana Pradhan, “New Mexico Governor Candidate Profited From High-Risk Insurance Plans,” 30 May 2018, Politico, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/30/lujan-grisham-new-mexico-insurance-615197.
7Sue Major Holmes, “1st District Has Been in GOP Hands for 40 Years,” 16 May 2008, Associated Press; James Monteleone, “Finding Ways to Get Things Done,” 29 April 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A1.
8James Monteleone, “CD1: The Race Is On,” 7 June 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A1.
9James Monteleone, “Invest for Growth While Curbing Waste,” 3 September 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A1; James Monteleone, “Immigration,” 6 September 2012, Albuquerque Journal: C1; James Monteleone, “Energy,” 7 September 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A7; James Monteleone, “Candidates Debate Job Growth Strategy,” 10 September 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A1; New Mexico secretary of state, “Voting and Elections: Past Election Results 2012,” accessed 5 September 2019, https://www.sos.state.nm.us/voting-and-elections/election-results/past-election-results-2012/; Dan Boyd, “District 1 Candidates Spar,” 20 May 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A1; Jeri Clausing, “Race for District 1 Congress Seat Brings Out Dirt,” 28 May 2012, Associated Press; James Monteleone, “Lujan Grisham Wins,” 7 November 2012, Albuquerque Journal: A6; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”
10Congressional Directory, 113th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2013): 486; Congressional Directory, 114th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Publishing Office, 2014): 490; Congressional Directory, 115th Cong. (Washington, DC: Government Publishing Office, 2015): 400, 492; Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Conference Chairmen and Chairwomen, 1976–Present.”
11Kim, “Sister’s Death Drives Lujan Grisham.”
12National Care Corps Act of 2015, H.R. 5288, 113th Cong. (2014); National Care Corps Act of 2015, H.R. 2668, 114th Cong. (2015); National Care Corps Act of 2017, H.R. 3494, 115th Cong. (2017).
13Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Educational Appropriations Act, PL 115-245, 132 Stat. 2981 (2018).
14“Rep. Lujan Grisham Signature Care Corps Grants Passed & Funded,” official website of Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, press release, 26 September 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20181222205637/https://lujangrisham.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-lujan-grisham-signature-care-corps-grants-passed-funded.
15Albuquerque, New Mexico, Federal Land Conveyance Act of 2014, H.R. 3998, 113th Cong. (2014); Albuquerque, New Mexico, Federal Land Conveyance Act of 2014, PL 113-190, 128 Stat. 2028 (2014).
16Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act, H.R. 3605, 113th Cong. (2013); Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act, PL 113-119, 128 Stat. 1185 (2014).
17H. Amdt. 711 to H.R. 4660, 113th Cong. (2014); H. Amdt. 289 to H.R. 2578, 114th Cong. (2015).
18H. Amdt. 936 to H.R. 6147, 115th Cong. (2018).
19See, for instance, Ensuring Fair Access to Veterans Healthcare Act, H.R. 3978, 114th Cong. (2015); H. Amdt. 1396 to H.R. 5620, 114th Cong. (2016); Fixing VHA Facilities Act, H.R. 4728, 115th Cong. (2017); Improving Access to VA Care Act, H.R. 4727, 115th Cong. (2017).
20Andrew Oxford, “Lujan Grisham Offers Vision For New Mexico,” 15 May 2018, Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/ local_news/lujan-grisham-offers-vision-for-new-mexico/article_410bfa00-e226-590b-998c-aa4af4dd99f0.html; Dan Boyd, “Lujan Grisham Running for Governor,” 14 December 2016, Albuquerque Journal: A1.
21Dan Boyd, “Lujan Grisham Pushed Higher Minimum Wage,” 18 October 2017, Albuquerque Journal: A8.
22Sylvia Ulloa, “Dem Candidates For Governor Debate,” 5 May 2018, Alamogordo Daily News (NM): A2; Dan Boyd, “The Matchup Is Set,” 6 June 2018, Albuquerque Journal: A1; Dan McKay, “Pearce, Lujan Grisham Spar During First TV Debate,” 20 September 2018, Albuquerque Journal: A1; New Mexico secretary of state, “Official Results 2018 Primary—June 5, 2018,” last updated 19 June 2018, accessed 10 September 2019, https://electionresults.sos.state.nm.us/resultsSW.aspx?eid=112&type=SW&map=CTY; New Mexico secretary of state, “Official Results—General Election—November 6, 2018,” last updated 25 November 2018, accessed 10 September 2019, https://electionresults.sos.state.nm.us/resultsSW.aspx?type=SW&map=CTY.
23Congressional Record, House, 115th Cong., 2nd sess. (27 December 2018): H10597.