Native American women's election to US House celebrated

Native American women's election to US House celebrated
New Mexico candidate for congress Deb Haaland speaks to constituents at Barelas Coffee House restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M., on midterms election day Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — As a girl, Debra Haaland remembers joining her grandmother as she chopped wood and fetched water for her home in tiny Mesita, a Native American community situated in New Mexico's high desert.

Haaland, an enrolled Laguna Pueblo member, is certain it was these early experiences and the example of her grandmother's work ethic that helped her win a seat in the U.S. House Representatives on Tuesday — a political victory that until this year had been beyond reach for numerous Native American women. Her fellow Democrat Sharice Davids, who is Ho-Chunk, also won her historic bid to represent a U.S. House district in Kansas.

Their wins add them to a record number of women elected to the U.S. House on Tuesday following an election cycle that also saw a significant boost in Native American female candidates at the state and local levels. In an interview, Haaland, a former New Mexico Democratic Party chairwoman, credited a vast political network she built after nearly 20 years of working on other candidates' campaigns, her team and volunteers, and her own hard work.

"My grandmother worked really hard; she expected us to work hard," Haaland said. "I mean that in and of itself is what really sustained me. It's my work ethic."

Haaland, who is 57, will replace U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who ran successfully for governor this year. Her district covers Albuquerque and a handful of rural communities that include tribal communities.

New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland embraces a supporter during her visit to the Albuquerque Indian Center for the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids were elected the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland embraces a supporter during her visit to the Albuquerque Indian Center for the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids were elected the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

Davids' district, meanwhile, lies in the suburbs west of Kansas City. She unseated U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican. In addition to being one of the first Native American congresswomen, she'll also be the nation's first LGBT Native American to serve as a federal lawmaker.

FILE - Deb Haaland poses for a portrait Tuesday, June 5, 2018 in a Nob Hill Neighborhood in Albuquerque, N.M. Haaland is one of two Native American women who marked historic congressional victories as a record number of women were elected to the U.S. House following an election cycle that also saw a significant boost in Native American female candidates at the state and local level. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
FILE - Deb Haaland poses for a portrait Tuesday, June 5, 2018 in a Nob Hill Neighborhood in Albuquerque, N.M. Haaland is one of two Native American women who marked historic congressional victories as a record number of women were elected to the U.S. House following an election cycle that also saw a significant boost in Native American female candidates at the state and local level. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Labreche)

On election night, Davids, a lawyer and former White House fellow, highlighted her life story of being raised by a single mother, being a first-generation college student and working while she was in school, saying those experiences were not unusual.

New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland exits the Albuquerque Indian Center after the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland exits the Albuquerque Indian Center after the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

"What is uncommon, until now, is to have those voices and those stories and those experiences truly reflected in our federal government, in Congress and the Senate," she said.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Democrat house candidate Sharice Davids speaks to supporters at a victory party in Olathe, Kan. Davids defeated Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder to win the Kansas' 3rd Congressional District seat. Democratic House candidate Debra Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Democrat house candidate Sharice Davids speaks to supporters at a victory party in Olathe, Kan. Davids defeated Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder to win the Kansas' 3rd Congressional District seat. Democratic House candidate Debra Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File) (Source: Colin E. Braley)

The two women will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. Cole and Mullin are Republicans, representing districts in Oklahoma.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov.6, 2018 file photo, Democrat House candidate Sharice Davids gives a victory speech to supporters at a election party in Olathe, Kan. Davids defeated Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder to win the Kansas' 3rd Congressional District seat. Democratic House candidate Debra Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov.6, 2018 file photo, Democrat House candidate Sharice Davids gives a victory speech to supporters at a election party in Olathe, Kan. Davids defeated Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder to win the Kansas' 3rd Congressional District seat. Democratic House candidate Debra Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File) (Source: Colin E. Braley)

Haaland and Davids' wins marked an emotional high point for Kalyn Free, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma and former district attorney in southeastern Oklahoma, who has been part of a decades-long push to get Native American women elected to Congress.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, supporters for Democrat House candidate Sharice Davids react to election returns during a watch party in Olathe, Kan. Davids won against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder for the Kansas 3rd Congressional District seat. Democratic House candidate Debra Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, supporters for Democrat House candidate Sharice Davids react to election returns during a watch party in Olathe, Kan. Davids won against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder for the Kansas 3rd Congressional District seat. Democratic House candidate Debra Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File) (Source: Colin E. Braley)

"l always say little Indian boys and little Indian girls cannot be what they cannot see," Free said. "Now, there are going to be two male Republicans and two very outspoken, two talented Indian Democrat women who are going to be there as well."

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 photo Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland, right, watches election returns with Beth Touchin, the Native American Outreach Director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. Haaland and Sharice Davids, of Kansas, on Tuesday became the nation's first Native American women to win their bids for the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats Haaland and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Mary Hudetz, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 photo Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland, right, watches election returns with Beth Touchin, the Native American Outreach Director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. Haaland and Sharice Davids, of Kansas, on Tuesday became the nation's first Native American women to win their bids for the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats Haaland and Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Mary Hudetz, File) (Source: Mary Hudetz)

She recalled donating to the 1992 congressional campaign of Ada Deer, a Menominee woman who ran as a Democrat for a seat in Wisconsin. Twelve years later, Free herself ran for Congress in Oklahoma and then founded INDN's List, a political organization that sought to recruit and build support for Native American candidates.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, New Mexico Democratic congressional candidate Deb Haaland speaks to supporters during her visit to the Albuquerque Indian Center for the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, N.M., on midterms election night. Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids were elected the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids who won in Kansas' 3rd congressional district will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, New Mexico Democratic congressional candidate Deb Haaland speaks to supporters during her visit to the Albuquerque Indian Center for the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, N.M., on midterms election night. Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids were elected the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Davids who won in Kansas' 3rd congressional district will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche, File) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

In the past, Free said many Native American women she supported faced a "double barrier" along race and gender lines in winning over donors who doubted their competitiveness. But Haaland and Davids toppled it.

FILE - In this June 6, 2018, file photo, Deb Haaland, a Democratic candidate for Congress for central New Mexico's open seat and a tribal member of the Laguna Pueblo, sits at her Albuquerque home. Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Native American Democrat Sharice Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)
FILE - In this June 6, 2018, file photo, Deb Haaland, a Democratic candidate for Congress for central New Mexico's open seat and a tribal member of the Laguna Pueblo, sits at her Albuquerque home. Haaland who won in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Native American Democrat Sharice Davids will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File) (Source: Russell Contreras)

Haaland raised about $1.9 million, more than any of her opponents, despite hearing of doubts from other Democrats early in the race that she wouldn't be able to compete financially, she said. She cleared a crowded primary field before handily defeating former state lawmaker Janice Arnold-Jones, a Republican, in Tuesday's election.

FILE - In this June 13, 2018 file photo, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., arrives for a closed-door GOP meeting on immigration, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrat Debra Haaland an enrolled Laguna Pueblo member won a seat in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Democrat Sharice Davids who is Ho-Chunk won in Kansas' 3rd congressional district Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. They will join U.S. Reps. Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. Cole and Mullin are Republicans, representing districts in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this June 13, 2018 file photo, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., arrives for a closed-door GOP meeting on immigration, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrat Debra Haaland an enrolled Laguna Pueblo member won a seat in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Democrat Sharice Davids who is Ho-Chunk won in Kansas' 3rd congressional district Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. They will join U.S. Reps. Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. Cole and Mullin are Republicans, representing districts in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Davids raised about $4.3 million, almost all of it since mid-July. The sum represented an unusually large amount of money for congressional races in the state. In the final full month of her race alone, she recorded a $1.16-million haul.

FILE - In this May 16, 2013 file photo, House Transportation and Infrastructure Full Committee member Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrat Debra Haaland an enrolled Laguna Pueblo member won a seat in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Democrat Sharice Davids who is Ho-Chunk won in Kansas' 3rd congressional district Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. They will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. Cole and Mullin are Republicans, representing districts in Oklahoma (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this May 16, 2013 file photo, House Transportation and Infrastructure Full Committee member Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrat Debra Haaland an enrolled Laguna Pueblo member won a seat in New Mexico's 1st congressional district and Democrat Sharice Davids who is Ho-Chunk won in Kansas' 3rd congressional district Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. They will join U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Mullin, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the House. Cole and Mullin are Republicans, representing districts in Oklahoma (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) (Source: Carolyn Kaster)

Federal Election Commission filings showed both candidates benefiting from a mix of individual and super PAC contributions, as well as donations from numerous tribes in their states and beyond.

Congresswoman-Elect Deb Haaland backstage before delivering her acceptance speech in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
Congresswoman-Elect Deb Haaland backstage before delivering her acceptance speech in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

"We have to compete at the same level," Free said. "We have to have money, professional staff, and data-driven campaigns. That's the difference."

New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland visits the Albuquerque Indian Center for the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland visits the Albuquerque Indian Center for the Native Vote Celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico midterms election night Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

Haaland said her fundraising push included visits to tribes' administration buildings throughout the country, where she said she discussed a range of issues with tribal leaders.

Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland reacts to the news of her election during midterms' election night in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland reacts to the news of her election during midterms' election night in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

In what has become a reliably Democratic district in the past decade, she ran on a progressive agenda that prioritized health care, public education and the environment, saying the issues span the interests of her constituents and Native Americans nationwide.

Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland speaks to her mother Mary Toya following the news of her election during midterms' election night in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)
Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland speaks to her mother Mary Toya following the news of her election during midterms' election night in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche) (Source: Juan Antonio Labreche)

"I hope that I can help (tribes) to see some success with my win," she said. "When I go to Congress, it's, you know, them having a seat at the table. It's them having a voice."

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Associated Press writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.