When she makes a public appearance, you will most assuredly hear a self-effacing comment pass from her lips, as she mounts a step stool to get to podium microphone. She is not a tall person. However, being small in stature is the only diminutive thing about Michelle Lujan Grisham.
As the 32nd Governor of the state of New Mexico, Lujan Grisham has honed her talents as a policy wonk and a get-things-done leader through decades of public service in a state her family has called home for 12 generations. Born in the once secretive enclave of Los Alamos, Lujan Grisham was raised in nearby Santa Fe and went to the University of New Mexico, where she earned both a bachelor’s and a Law degree.
She served three different Governors in her early career of public service by working as the lead for the state’s Agency on Aging and then as Secretary of Health under Gov. Bill Richardson. She made a run for a seat in Congress in 2008, but came up short and ended up working a stint as a local county commissioner.
To give you an idea of who exactly this firecracker is, Lujan Grisham herself often recounts the time she went undercover into a state-run nursing home, faked a stroke and checked herself into the facility. She was neglected and robbed during the brief sojourn, and it shaped how she sought to revamp the state’s entire agency and its programs. It is that no-nonsense and hands-on approach that has become the hallmark of her style.
Ever-dogged in her pursuits, Lujan Grisham made another run for the same House seat a few years later when the political circumstances shifted in her favor. Winning that 2012 election, Lujan Grisham went on to serve three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. There she garnered much attention, including in being elected as Chair of the influential Congressional Hispanic Caucus during her second term.
When political fortune again turned in her favor, Lujan Grisham made a run for Governor, and in 2019, she became the first Democratic Latina elected chief executive of a state.
When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, Lujan Grisham again shot into the national spotlight. Ushering in her previous public health experience, the Governor took strong, evidence-based actions to control the spread of the virus in the state. Doing so was no easy decision. Shutting down large segments of the economy in one of the nation’s most economically disadvantaged states was a tough call.
At the same time, Lujan Grisham’s name has been consistently floated as a possible Vice-Presidential pick for Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 2020 presidential election. With polls consistently showing that most Americans are displeased with the current administration’s response to the coronavirus, Lujan Grisham’s record could prove a strong asset to the Biden campaign.
However, the possibility of serving on the national Democratic ticket turns out for Lujan Grisham, the challenges of 2020, a lifetime of public service and an indomitable spirit have all eyes on her as one truly powerful and effective leader.