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Lujan Grisham enters congressional race

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham jumped into the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary today, setting up a three-way contest that also includes former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez and State Sen. Eric Griego.

“I’m running for Congress because we are under attack in this country,” Lujan Grisham said in remarks released to the media. “A band of right-wing radicals in Congress has hijacked our country and put the interests of their corporate masters ahead of the middle class, seniors and the most vulnerable among us.”

The former cabinet secretary for the departments of Health and Aging said the economy is “crumbling, health care is becoming more expensive and inaccessible and our families are struggling to survive.”

“Congress’ answer to this has been to cut investments in our people while preserving tax breaks for oil companies and billionaire hedge-fund managers,” she said. “Worst of all, they have proposed dramatic cuts in Medicaid – which over 500,000 New Mexicans depend on – and, even worse, they would end Medicare as we know it.”

“I am running for Congress because we need to stop the insanity,” she said. “People need a champion to fight against these extreme policies and instead focus on creating more jobs.”


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Lujan Grisham ran for Congress in 2008, but finished third in the Democratic primary. Democrat Martin Heinrich went on to win the seat, which he’s now giving up to run for U.S. Senate.

As a widow, single mother and caregiver, Lujan Grisham said she has “personally dealt with the everyday problems that real people face.” She said she has spent her career advocating “for those who cannot fight for themselves – from senior citizens and the disabled to children and those without health insurance. I have always worked for people and not the powerful and connected.”

On the Republican side, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis and former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones are running. Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010, is considering joining the race.

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23 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. “A band of right-wing radicals in Congress …” but Ms Grisham failed to mention the troop of left-wing nuts … between the two extremes of political spectrum, the peoples work is not being accomplished. The bottom line is that the Nation is broke and we have a spending problem. Even if troop of wing-nuts is correct that rich don’t pay enough – the truth is that they CAN’T pay enough – there isn’t enough money to pay for what we’re doing. Stop the catching, meaningless rhetoric, Ms Grisham, and tell us how you’re going to lead ‘the fix’

  2. “A band of right-wing radicals in Congress…” Do these individual band members have names and examples of their actions?

    This question was asked several days ago. Lujan-Grisham’s response to the question is conspicuous in its absence.

    Does Lujan-Grisham not read blogs, (a common claim by politicians and public servants) even posts about herself? Or does she want to not answer the question?

    It is a fair question; who are the right-wing radicals she claims have hi-jacked the process, and how?

    While there are others I’m sure, who would like to weigh in on the question, it was, and is, asked of Michelle Lujan-Grisham herself.

  3. Interesting assessment, IP, and you echo, in a more general way, my criticism of JP.

    I have heard all three of the candidates speak on different occasions, and I was impressed by Lujan-Grisham and Chavez more than Griego–I think your analysis of him agrees with my less-informed one. I also think he could not win the seat.

  4. Competition is a good thing. Glad to see it in both parties.

  5. Having worked in a specific field for over 20 years, as an employee for companies with no direct connection to the government, as an employee for a government contractor and as a federal civil servant, the entire pay/benefit/job security equation tilts heavily toward the later category. This is well known in that field and several similar disciplines, I am very familiar with. The surveys I’ve seen often compare apples to oranges. Nor do they take into account the less quantifiable advantages and disadvantages of public and private sector jobs.

  6. From my limited perspective, IP nailed it with Griego and Marty. I’m admittedly moderale and would normally lean towards Marty, but while he’s reasonably welll spoken and not stupid, he’s got too much Richardson in him and now that he’s not in office I doubt the many he’s stepped on will support him. He’s also too old to achieve any level of seniority in that office where he could effectively promote or defend New Mexico’s interests. I suspect he’d run for something else in a couple of years and we’d be starting over. Greigo does have a tea party demeanor. I don’t know enough about Michelle, but as a someone who will vote for the person I like best from either party, I’ll likely go with Arnold -Jones in the current line-up, although I think she’ll struggle in the primary.

  7. Thank you IP for a very clear, concise, and insightful report on Marty and Eric. I would say that pretty much confirms what my, admittedly limited, exposure would indicate about them, you obviously know them quite well. Of course huge egos, excess hubris, and cock-sure attitudes about their ideas are not the exclusive attributes of any end of the political spectrum, liberals and conservatives suffer from this equally I would say. I am not sure exactly what your definition of the left wing or liberal end of our party is, but to me, as I try to keep it simple, I usually would tag them liberals or left wing if they tend to think taxes could always be higher (especially for a minority of society) and government could always be bigger with more reach into more areas of society. This probably doesn’t fit your definition of liberal, but it is a test I use to see those who would disagree with my opinions of government.

  8. Mr. Macquigg:

    I’m not sure the direct comparison is entirely possible all of the time, since public-sector jobs, for the most part, don’t produce a physical product. If we make direct comparisons, however, I think you’ll find that government is no where near as inefficient as they are made out to be, and in many cases really are far more efficient than the private sector. The overhead cost (i.e. non-medical expenditures) for private insurance – which is already more costly than government programs, and usually no more efficient at providing care – is sometimes as high as 31% (the rare lowest end being 7.6%). Even the worst estimates of Medicare’s overhead costs come to 5.6%.

    Also, before anyone brings up the perennial whipping-boy of the Postal Service as a model of government inefficiency, I’m going to point out that it is, in fact, exactly the opposite. Prior to 1969, the Postmaster General was a cabinet-level job, postal workers had excellent salary and benefits, the mail was delivered as often as twice every weekday and once on Saturdays in some major cities – and at least once-a-day, six-days a week even in the most rural of areas – and stamp prices were eight cents… which had been true for most of a century. In 1969, we decided that it should be run like a corporation instead (complete with a board of directors), and the term “going postal” first popped up about a decade-and-a-half later.

    This is all, of course, ignoring the fact that there are quite simply certain jobs that the government should do; while I do not object to the existence of private schools, nor in parents making the choice to spend their own money to send their children to them, I think that it is far better that the majority of schools remain public, where parents have an actual say in standards. I certainly trust the US military far beyond Blackwater (or “Xe”, or whatever they’re called this week), who I just flat think shouldn’t exist, and I’d take APD (who I really do dislike and would prefer were far better trained) over Wackenhut any day of the week.

  9. wedum and Dr. J:

    Having dealt with both Griego and Chávez for many years, I can tell you that neither is a particularly good choice; Griego is a horrendous candidate who has an almost savant-like talent for saying exactly the wrong thing in any given situation. He’s the sort of unpragmatic and uncompromising lefty that gave JusticeP and many others their vision of what it means to be a liberal. While I may agree with (most of) his viewpoints, Eric Griego has absolutely zero ability to realize that the things he thinks we should accomplish can not be accomplished over night, nor does he possess an ability to consider that perhaps there are people – however few or many they may be – for whom such a world would not automatically be a good thing; indeed, he always seems shocked that they would disagree with him. I like to think of this wing of the party as the leftist Tea Party, or even college freshman psuedo-liberalism; completely uncompromising, not terribly nuanced, and remarkably demanding. Even when the facts agree with them (which admittedly is most of the time), they don’t bother to use them because they just assume that everyone should go along with it because they’ve decided they’re good people. Essentially, the Eric Griegos of the world are who the right-wing use as justification for almost every assault against the actual liberals, the pragmatic center, the middle-class, academics, scientists, unions, and anybody else who lives in the real world – simply by paining us all with that same brush because we happen to exist in the group known as “anyone to the left of Pat Robertson”.

    Martin Chávez, on the other hand, is decidedly moderate, but he’s not the least bit pragmatic and has an impressive ego. Having been a merely adequate mayor of Albuquerque for three terms, he of course is always looking to move on to the next higher office. Of course, the only office that he could have possibly won from that position was the one he is just now running for. He’s the only person in New Mexico who doesn’t seem to realize that he can’t garner enough votes outside of Albuquerque to win any other seat. However, after one failed gubernatorial run, aborted attempts at the US Senate and the governorship (again), attempting and failing miserably to get all of his people elected to the ward-level offices in the state party, suing to change the law so that he could (unsuccessfully) run for a third term as mayor (which he swore he wouldn’t do, even while suing), and then moving to Washington, D.C. in a huff when all of that failed, he suddenly thinks he can now win a conveniently open House seat that is centered in Albuquerque – where, after all of the aforementioned actions, no one really wants to vote for him anymore. I wish I could say I’m surprised at the arrogance, but honestly, that’s classic Marty.

    Luján-Grisham, meanwhile, I think runs into a serious name-recognition problem. This is not the first time she’s gone for this office, and I have to say, I just flat don’t have enough experience with her to make a sound judgement on her long-term chances – though my opinion of her ability is, thus far, favorable.

    And JusticeP, I’d say your assessment of liberalism is accurate, and when you look at actual issues rather than labels, it describes most Americans throughout our history, right from the beginning; after all, what could be more liberal than creating a secular Constitutional Federalist Republic when every other country they dealt with was a theocratic hereditary monarchy? Indeed, “liberal” is exactly what the founders referred to themselves as.

    The issue is, of course, as I stated above; every philosophy as it’s unreasonable emulators and conservatives have done a fantastic job of pegging the rest of us with the attitudes of a thankfully small number of people. “Elitist” has gone from the word we used to describe the very people whom we fought a revolution against to a derogatory term for “intelligent”; we have a corporate-controlled and self-censored mass media culture that becomes ever more conservative because every time they say something the right doesn’t like they get derided as “liberal” (which, apparently, isn’t as profitable) – they have become more concerned about labels than whether they’re reporting actual facts, and it’s not uncommon for very good stories to get not so much suppressed as simply ignored because an editor has decided that it might paint someone on the right in a bad light. Democrats – particularly in New Mexico – are remarkably easy to paint as “corrupt” because we’ve made laws that require us to be open and honest in our public service – laws when we (sometimes grudgingly) follow most of the time, and which conservatives often succeed in ignoring. It’s hard to paint someone as actually corrupt when you have no idea what they’re doing. This is the world we live in.

    Of course, “liberal”, by definition, an ever-evolving thing, because it requires viewpoints to change with changing facts. While this may be an ideal model of governance, it’s electorally problematic. A true liberal tends to look uncertain when put up against a conservative who may be 100% incorrect about something, but he’s incorrect with absolute conviction.

    Incidentally, the USAToday story to which you linked (setting aside my opinion of the reputability of McPaper) has become something of a go-to article for the right… and received rather a lot of criticism for shoddy research from other media institutions and the left. For starters, an all-encompassing comparison of public-to-private sector salaries is, by definition, meaningless; there are no minimum wage jobs in government, and it is entirely true that non-salary benefits for public employees are far better – which I think speaks well of the People as employers. Cherry-picking individual duties that make six-figures – and whom, I might add, still make less than their direct counter-parts in the private sector – is hardly demonstrative of how much other individual government employees make. If we start using mean averages instead of median averages, I think that we’d see that we’re not being particularly good employers at all.

    Some months ago, in trying to prove the same point, Dr. J linked to another (somewhat better researched) article in the same paper, that despite the headline “Federal Pay Ahead of Private Industry” actually showed in the text itself that a) the comparison is completely meaningless because jobs that are the same on paper are more often than not wildly different between the public- and private-sectors; and b) buried in the fine print was the fact that while Federal workers may make slightly more (on average about 11% rather than the wild 75% number you gave) than their direct counter-parts in the private sector, state and local employees make less… and also happen to be the large majority of public-sector employees.

  10. ched says: “Government enables cultures of corruption and incompetence far more than the private sector does.” Correctamundo. This is clearly seen when you compare “fired for cause” stats between government and private, a world of difference there.

  11. IP,

    In comparing public sector workers to private sector workers; while salary is obviously important, so is bang for the buck. My impression, until very recently, was that the private sector shuffled paper far more effectively and efficiently than the public sector; compare for example the public sector motor vehicle department and the same services performed by their private sector competitors.

    Are you, or anyone else for that matter, aware of any studies of the relative quality and quantity of work product from workers in the public and private sectors?

    Don’t private sector managers extract more and better product from their workers, than somebody’s cousin’s uncle is getting out of his own gaggle of cousins, uncles and cronies?

    And, no, I am not suggesting all public employees are worthless. Just that the ones that aren’t, work along side way too many who are and production suffers. Government enables cultures of corruption and incompetence far more than the private sector does.

  12. JP, I checked out your link. There are no comparables, just a vague statement about $30,000 more. An in-depth article with a full comparison of education, experience, private vs public salaries might convince me. I at least attempted to do that. See if you can find out what a person who graduated first in the class from Stanford Law School makes, on average. Then compare to the late Chief Justice Rehnquist’s salary. (BTW: Rehnquist graduated first in his class at SLS.)

    And the highest salary mentioned in your link is $170,000. Good grief, the Ruidoso Superintendent of Schools gets $120,000!

    DJ, yes my interest is academic. I would have chosen Chavez over Griego, even though I very much admire Griego, especially for his attempt to extend public financing to state legislature races. But I think Chavez is more experienced and smarter. I might donate to Lujan-Grisham’s campaign, though.

  13. I think Michelle entering the race is a good thing. Lord knows these days we can always use more options (I am in CD1 and would like voters to have lots more choices than Marty or Griego). Ditto for the R’s – I’d like to see Barela get in the race, although he probably won’t. Rumor has it Nate Gentry might. We could still use a few more I think. Don’t forget, Michelle is in the “pander to the hard left” mode. Diito for the R’s and their current all red meat diet. It will be more interesting later in the race to see who can depart from the national party line talking points everybodies been chanting like a mantra for the last year. It makes my head hurt and I’ve already got it memorized.

    While it sounds good to say things like “we don’t have a revenue probblem, we have a spending problem.” The right needs to accept the reality that we have both. If we balanced the budget today by just cutting expenditures, we’d hit the windshield so hard we’d probably never recover. Ask people at Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos, Raytheon, every nurisng home or virtually every healthcare provider that’s not exclusively providing elective plastic surgery about government and private sector jobs. Charging up the credit cards while quiting our full time job and going part time (and then threatening to welch on your debts ’cause you want to pay) is essentially what we did with the Bush tax cuts, wars, and our recent debt ceiling debates. I lean fiscal conservative but that’s just fiscal irrisponsibility. That said, Mr. Molitor is right about the leftists too often ignoring economics and how wealth and prosperity is created. Those who cherish, value, and want to “protect” Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security should be crying the loudest for reform, as to think the status quo is nirvana is idiotic, and the programs are unsustainable and in need of improvement. And what’s with the “evil rich” and “corporate jet” rhetoric? It’s just more pandering but doesn’t solve problems. Why isn’t anyone asking me to chip in if we’re really in a crisis? Can’t most of the other 98% of us skip a family meal at McDonalds or a lottery ticket and pitch in too? (economists call that the “moral dilemma” where you’re fine rasing taxes as long is it’s on someone else). Repeal the Bush tax cuts – all of them (it would hit everyone but progressively), reform the entitlement programs, and keep a lid on military spending. Problem solved. The medicine won’t taste better is we wait longer, and could kill the patient if we get it wrong.

    Both sides are right about the other, they just don’t look in the mirror very well.

  14. I’m not in CD1 wedum59, but I would have to hold my nose and vote for Mayor Marty in my primary, the lesser of three evils as the other two are even further left wing than the current Marty, something I did not think possible. In the general, it would depend, but it appears the Repubs have far better candidates than any of the Dems. Since you are also not in CD1, I suspect your interest is academic as well?

  15. wedum59:

    Generally speaking: For feds, more get 6-figure salaries: Average pay $30,000 over private sector The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.
    Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.
    Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.
    The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available. http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20091211/1afedpay11_st.art.htm

  16. IP: I always try to read you assertions or responses for the precise thoughts that you are putting forth. In this article, after reading your response, I checked my understanding of the definition of a liberal. My mental picture versus the definitions I found are not the same. Would you agree a reasonable and accurate definition of a liberal is as follows?

    For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves. Being a “Liberal”–you mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties.

  17. DJ throws out some wild accusations with no evidence. Whom are you supporting, DJ?

  18. Ah, so the plot thickens in CD1. I bet we are going to be seeing even more (if that is possible) of those “voter education” ads from Ms. Lujan Grisham (ala Rebecca). She was just using these taxpayer funded ads for her re-election, now there is a bigger, higher paying job at stake and our tax money is now no object.

  19. It takes about a billion dollars to run for president these days, and $30,000 or so to run for a NM State Senate seat that pays nothing. So why bother you say? Well to paraphrase an old credit card commercial–the salary sucks, but the perks of the job are priceless. Perks like bribes in the form of campaign contributions and information gathering boondoggles, jobs for friends and relatives, procurement contracts that benefit personal business interests, and then there’s all that juicy insider information that you can use to ensure a 100% return on your investment with no risk. Priceless indeed!

  20. Government jobs pay more than private sector jobs, JP? That is blatantly false. Here’s some real cases from a 2009 survey (“What Washingtonians Make”)

    President of the United States– $400,000
    President of the US Chamber of Congress– $3,157,188

    US Supreme Court Justice– $208,100
    Provost and Vice President for Health Affairs
    George Washington University– $772,500

    U.S. Senator– $174,000
    President and CEO
    National Children’s Medical Center– $2,100,000

    US Secretary of State– $191,300
    Grover Norquist, President
    Americans for Tax Reform– $205,409

  21. JusticeP:

    What “far-left liberals”? Are you really afraid for this country because of maybe half-a-dozen Congressmen who still have enough backbone to stand firm to the liberal principles that actually created this country in the first place and not join the constantly-caving moderates of the Democratic Party?

    Also, while government benefits are generally better than those of private companies, did it ever occur to you that maybe that’s because We the People choose to treat our employees better than Wal-Mart does? As for their actual pay, however, despite what the mathematically-challenged anti-Middle-class folks at the Rio Grande and Heritage Foundations have told you, they actual make quite a bit less than their private-sector counter-parts.

  22. “A band of right-wing radicals in Congress…” Do these individual band members have names and examples of their actions.

    Are they as far right and as destructive as the far left liberals?

    Other than getting out of the way and removing so many restrictions government does not created private sector jobs. Has government ever created jobs other than government jobs and/or government funded jobs. Admitted government jobs pay much much more than private sector jobs and just by reading the reports on this blog and in the papers you generally can see what we are getting for our government money. Corruption, never ending corruption.

  23. “Congress’ answer to this has been to cut investments in our people while preserving tax breaks for oil companies and billionaire hedge-fund managers,” she said.

    Ms. Grisham,

    I would suggest to you that a $1.7 trillion dollar federal deficit, a $15 trillion dollar federal debt, and an approximately $65 trillion dollar unfunded future liabilities (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other various entitlement obligations) is not “cutting investment in our people.” Tax reform for oil companies and ‘billionaire hedge-fund managers’ is a drop in the ocean in our truly monumental economic problems.

    Quite bluntly, with the non-partisan systemic economic problems our country faces your remarks are transparently “class baiting” in their approach in my opinion.

    What I would like to see out of you is a true understanding of economics and how money works. Fiat money (the dollars in your pocket) are printed like toilet paper. The dollar is backed by nothing but the “promise of the government that issues it.” Well, that government is broke and its debt has just been downgraded.

    You appear to feel that the government is not doing enough for the people (Please see the spending government spending deficit figures I cite above to argue otherwise.)

    We don’t have a mis-placed government program for the wrong classes problem, or a lack of taxes problem, Ms. Grisham. We have a spending problem.

    Fiat money printed by the Federal Reserve to buy our artificially low interest rates on our Treasuries is (a) debasing the value of our currency, (b) triggering inflation, (c) facilitating wasteful government spending in domestic programs and in the several wars we are currently engaged in, (d) appeasing Wall Street campaign donors, and (e) creating mal-investments that cause bubbles to burst.

    The US dollar has lost 50 percent of its purchasing power in this decade alone. This is what bites into those living on Social Security, pensions, low or no incomes, and other fixed incomes. Ms. Grisham, if you want to position yourself as the true champion of the neglected people of New Mexico and America, consider reading up on monetary reform.

    I’ll stop here, but I do hope to heck you know something about economics – something I did not pick up in your announcement here on this site unfortunately. I could be judging you too harshly and prematurely, which is why I welcome any rebuttals to refute my perception that you appear to be another class-baiting politician looking to appeal to a political base that looks to more government as the solution to their problems.

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