Did New Mexico women just shatter a glass ceiling in the legislature?
Wait, did New Mexico Democrats just shatter a glass ceiling by electing an all-women leadership?
New Mexico Democrats might have just set an amazing precedent and shattered an insanely huge glass ceiling for women in leadership roles around the country.
Three top positions within the Democrat’s new majority leadership are being occupied by women. Not only that but Sheryl Williams Stapleton, an African American, Doreen Gallegos, a Latina, and Doreen Wonda Johnson, a member of the Navajo Nation, are all women of color from very different parts of New Mexico — potentially creating THE most diverse caucus leadership team in American history.
Nationwide women only make up 24.2% of state legislators despite representing nearly 51% of the overall population. And women of color only occupy 5% of legislative seats total. New Mexico has a precedent of electing women to top offices in the state. We were actually the first state to ever elect a woman to a state-wide office. The first woman to ever hold a major statewide office was Soledad C. Chacon (D-New Mexico) who was secretary of state in New Mexico from 1923 to 1926.
Women lost some ground nationally in terms of overall participation after elections in 2010. But despite the loss of the first potential woman as president, a diverse group of women did emerge on Election Day two weeks ago. That trend was just as true in New Mexico (Read our story about New Mexico progressive women having a a big win across the state here).
So just who are these #RadWomen now in charge up in Santa Fe?
Sheryl Williams Stapleton will be the new House Majority Leader. Williams Stapleton has served Albuquerque’s HD 19 since 1994 and held other leadership positions in the past including the majority and minority whip.
According to the New Mexico Political Report, Williams Stapleton will break another important milestone for New Mexico by becoming “the first African-American to serve as House majority leader in the state’s history.”
The majority leader is typically in charge of setting the party’s floor agenda and working with the committee chairs to keep legislation on track. Williams Stapelton has worked to introduce legislation aimed at improving education, improving access to careers and career training, and other measures aimed at improving the lives of everyday New Mexicans.
Doreen Gallegos from Las Cruces will take on the role of House majority whip. Gallegos has been serving HD 52 for 4 years and has centered a lot of her efforts on improving conditions for New Mexico women and families. As whip, Gallegos will be responsible for keeping other Democrats up to speed on which way to vote on bills that come up on the floor and maintaining party discipline. Gallegos has introduced some very practical bills during her time in the legislature including a bill that would have allowed for teen parents to more easily continue their public education. She was recognized by New Mexico State University for her ongoing commitment to social work through her legislative work as a Distinguished Alum in 2014.
Doreen Wonda Johnson from Gallup will be the House majority caucus chair, responsible for helping to shape the message of the majority party as a whole. Johnson also has worked to introduce legislation aimed at helping working families in New Mexico and rounds out the top leadership with an impressive focus on improving the lives for everyday citizens. Her experience as an organizer for her community will certainly help to bring a sense of unity and drive to the state Dems this coming year!
We should be proud to continue the tradition of electing strong women to leadership positions around the state. Cheers to these three women and ALL the progressive women who were elected this year to help move New Mexico forward!