Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team lobbying for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be nominated for the role of health and human services secretary.
The letter, signed by 32 members of Congress, including Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, commends Biden for selecting Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas, the first Latino and first immigrant to be nominated for Homeland Security secretary, calling it a “good start” for Latino representation.
But the letter notes the Latino population is incredibly varied, pointing to a statistic that indicates Mexican Americans make up more than 60% of the US Latino population, and suggests that Lujan Grisham, who is of Mexican American descent, be considered for the crucial Cabinet role.
Axios earlier reported on the letter.
Shortly after the Democratic presidential primary ended and it became clear that Biden would be the nominee, he faced pressure from activists to choose a Latina as his running mate. Lujan Grisham, the first Latina Democratic governor in the United States, was one of two likely candidates who were considered before Biden chose Sen. Kamala of California, who is America’s first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president-elect.
Lujan Grisham deflected when asked on Tuesday by CNN’s Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight” whether she is being vetted for the position.
“While I’m incredibly honored and flattered that my colleagues can see the work I’m doing on ground and know that I have 40 years of comprehensive health care experience, I’m focused on making sure that I’m saving New Mexico lives,” she said.
Lujan Grisham would come to the Cabinet role, which oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and plays a chief part in the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, armed with experience. Prior to becoming governor in 2019, she served as the health secretary of New Mexico from 2003 to 2007. She was in the spotlight in the early months of the pandemic for her handling of the Covid-19 crisis in New Mexico, and was among the first governors to issue a stay-at-home order and to close schools statewide as the outbreak spread throughout the country.
Lujan Grisham has a shared experience with the President-elect, as well. Her sister died of brain cancer, the same disease that took the life of Biden’s son Beau. When she was elected to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District from 2013 through 2018, Lujan Grisham shared in an interview that her sister’s death propelled her mission to fight for affordable health care.
The Biden-Harris transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated with Lujan Grisham’s comments on CNN.