Not very long ago, I asked New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan point blank why he is running for the United State Senate and giving up his very safe Second Congressional District in the United States Congress as well he leadership position under Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Following is the email response received from him:
“This is why I’m running for Senate:
I’m running so we can expand coverage for all Americans by moving to Medicare for All. I’m running to ensure we repeal the Hyde Amendment and that women have the right to choose, no matter what. I’m running to protect our public lands. And I’m running to fulfill our responsibility to combat climate change by enacting the Green New Deal.
I have had the privilege of representing New Mexico’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for the last decade, and it has been an honor to serve hardworking New Mexican families.
In the House, I helped lead the fight for the Affordable Care Act — the most progressive expansion of health care access this country has ever seen — which cut the number of uninsured individuals in New Mexico in half. But far too many people are still one illness away from financial instability.
I’ve introduced the only major health care legislation that explicitly repeals the Hyde Amendment banning doctors from having honest, medical conversations with their patients. But we’ve seen Senate Republicans block bills like mine and use their majority to pack the courts with conservative judges that don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose.
I have been a proud defender of our public lands, from pushing for a one-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling around Chaco Canyon to helping create Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. These lands are our birthright, but threats against them remain. President Trump has overseen the largest decrease in federally protected lands in history, selling access to these natural wonders to oil and gas companies that only care about their profits.
I signed onto the Green New Deal and introduced my own legislation to move the U.S. toward net zero emissions in the coming decades because climate change is already impacting our environment. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dubbed these efforts “dead on arrival.”
I’m proud of everything we have accomplished, but I want to do more for our families and for New Mexico. I hope I can continue to count on your support to tackle these issues and find solutions in the Senate.
Ben Ray Luján
THE CONGRESSMAN’ S REACTION TO TRUMP’S TWEETS AND COMMENTS
On July 14, 2019, during a FOX New interview with Chris Wallace, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján slammed President Donald Trump for a series of tweets he made, telling four Democratic representatives, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came, then come back and show us how it is done.” The four Democrats Trump was referencing were Lujan’s first term colleagues United States Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressle who are all women of color. The four are also among the most liberal members of the chamber and frequent critics of Trump and been nicknamed The Squad.
Luján reacted with genuine surprise when “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace read part of Trump’s Sunday morning tweet-storm to him at the end of the interview. Without hesitation, and with emotion, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan said:
“Chris, that’s the first I’m hearing of that. That’s a racist tweet! … Telling people to go back where they came from? These are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the most distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives. I think that’s wrong.”
Congressman Luján also connected the tweets with “the horrendous detention facilities that we have across the country,” referring to the detention facilities for asylum seekers, highlighted after a visit to a camp in Texas by Vice President Mike Pence.
The July 14, 2019 interview was not the first time Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has said the truth that Trump is a racist. On January 14, 2019, at a town hall meeting in Santa Fe billed as a discussion on the Republican tax overhaul and its likely effects in New Mexico, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján condemned the president’s vulgar comments as racist and went further and actually saying Donald Trump is a racist.
On December 24, 2017, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump described Nigerians as people living in huts and that they would not want to return to them. He referred to African countries as “Shit Hole Countries.” He reportedly said 40,000 had come from Nigeria and would never “go back to their huts” once they had seen America. The New York Times also reported in December, 2017 that President Trump said in a meeting about immigration that Haitians “all have AIDS”. Asked during a question-and-answer session about the uproar over Trump’s derogatory descriptions of the African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, and their citizens who immigrate to the United States his answer was unequivocal when he said:
“I think that President Donald Trump has clearly not just said racist things, but he is a racist.” The congressman went on to speak of Trump’s attack on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of California, a person born and raised in Indiana, as well as the president’s ban on immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim nations:
“Those are all attacks based on race. [When Trump announced he was running for President] he went after Mexican immigrants in the most ugly way anybody could by calling them rapists and murderers and whatnot.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
During my 42 years of practicing law and as a public servant, including as a prosecutor and serving as a Judge, I have been appointed to positions working for 3 Governors, one United States Senator, one Congressman, 2 Attorney Generals, 2 District Attorneys, and one Albuquerque Mayor. Some were Republicans. All but one I have seen grow and mature and make a positive difference during their years of elective office. One was an embarrassment to the State of New Mexico.
Ben Ray Lujan is one elected official who I have never worked for during my entire 42-year public service career. I first met him when I was a finalist for Superintendent of Insurance and interviewed for the position when he was a Public Regulation Commissioner. Notwithstanding not getting the job, I have watched Ben Ray Luján mature, grow into the offices he has held and has served with distinction. He has indeed made a difference for New Mexico and has never been an embarrassment to the state.
Congressman Ben Ray Lujan has served as the U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district since 2009, and became the Assistant House Speaker in 2019, appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was elected to be Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2014, and led the Democrats to win a majority in the US House in the 2018 elections. Luján previously served as a member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission from 2005 to 2008.
Lujan is extremely well liked within the Democratic party and is running an effective state-wide campaign and raising the necessary money to run. All congressman usually have ambitions to become United States Senators, unless they rise to the top in a leadership position such as Lujan has done in the House of Representative. However, congressmen have to run every two years while a Senate seat is far more powerful and is for a six-year term. New Mexico has not sent an Hispanic to the United States Senate in decades and Lujan’s voice that has deep roots to New Mexico is desperately needed this day and age in Washington. Lujan is no fan of Trump, and his vote will be needed in the Senate if there is ever an impeachment trial in the Senate. With his election to the United States Senate, New Mexico will have a United States Senator who knows how Washington works and what Donald Trump truly is in the eyes of so many New Mexicans: a racist.
On April 6, 2019, I ran into Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, at the Bernalillo County Democratic Party Convention. He went to the convention all alone. He is 4th in line to the US Speaker of the House. I point this out because many of the elected officials I worked for in the past were always accompanied by an entourage. The one’s who did not need an entourage or a security detail were the humble ones not caught up and self-absorbed with themselves and self importance and easily approachable by the voters. Such conduct says a lot about a person’s character and self-confidence.
New Mexico needs Ben Ray Lujan in the United States Senate and he will make one fine New Mexico United States Senator.
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