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PERSPECTIVE: Biden Can Make a Bold Choice for Running Mate

Created: 01 May, 2020
Updated: 26 July, 2022
Arturo Castañares

A promise has been made that the Democratic nominee for Vice-President of the United States will be a woman when former Vice-President Joe Biden became the front runner for the Democratic nomination and committed to selecting a woman as his running mate.By choosing a woman to share the ticket, Biden could help make history if the first woman Vice-President in history is elected with him in November.

The shortlist of possible choices include some familiar names among Democratic elected officials; Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, among others.

But another name that should be at the top of the list could help Biden expand his voter base, not only among women, but among Latinos too.

Although not as well known as other women on the list of potential running mates, one name may become as familiar nationally as she already is in her own state.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Governor of New Mexico.

Grisham is a former three-term Congresswoman and lawyer that previously served as her state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and as a county commissioner.

In 2018, Grisham won the governorship by more than 14 points and won her last congressional race in 2016 by more than 30 points.

As governor, Grisham issued an executive order to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, increase the state’s use of renewable energy, and joined the bi-partisan 24-state United States Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Accord climate change goals despite President Trump’s abandonment of the international agreement.

Governor Grisham also sought to repeal New Mexico’s unenforceable felony law punishing abortion doctors that was nullified by the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 but still remains on the books. New Mexico is one of only nine states that refused to repeal such laws that were overridden by the Supreme Court nearly 50 years ago.

As a congresswoman in 2015, Grisham was a co-sponsor of an assault weapons ban bill and a bill that sought to raise the national minimum wage to $12, but both bills were eventually stalled in the Republican-led House under then-Speaker Paul Ryan.

As her state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services she led the effort that doubled the number of health clinics at schools to provide medical services to students, she went undercover as a nursing home care patient to investigate mistreatment of seniors, and opened a state lab to better prepare the state for infectious diseases.

A widow whose husband died of a brain aneurysm in 2004, Grisham raised her two daughters while expanding her political involvement that led to her becoming governor in last year.

What else could a running mate bring to the table for Biden?

Grisham also happens to be a Latina and member of a family with a long history in New Mexico, including her grandfather that was the state’s first Latino Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, her uncle that served as a congressman and later as US Secretary of the Interior, and her distant cousin Congressman Ben Lujan who is now running for one of New Mexico’s US Senate seats.

In fact, the Lujan family traces its history in New Mexico back for 12 generations.

Fluent in Spanish, Grisham enjoys high polling numbers across her state and has been praised for her quick actions to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus that has hit her state particularly hard.

Grisham moved early in March to close state schools and issued stay-at-home orders that helped slow the virus, and opened the first drive-up testing site in the country before later opening 50 testing sites throughout the state.

Last week, Grisham took the bold move of shutting down highway access to Gallup, New Mexico after a sharp spike in new virus cases. The small town of 21,929 has over 30% of the state’s reported cases but has only 1% of the state’s population.

Biden could choose a better-known politician but he would he hard-pressed to find one with a more diverge background of experience and policy positions supported by a wide swath of the Democratic voter base.

Biden is from Delaware and could help mobilize voters in the West with Grisham on the ticket. There has never been a Democratic President or Vice-President from any Western state, although Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were from California.

Democrats have broken presidential barriers before: Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman Vice-Presidential nominee in 1980, Barack Obama was the first African-American presidential nominee in 2008, and Hillary Clinton was the first female presidential nominee in 2016.

Now a Biden/Grisham ticket could represent one of the most experienced political teams in history, and deliver the first woman Vice-President and first national Latin/x nominee in American history.