Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our New Congressional Delegation

A few of us Bread for the World members in New Mexico volunteered to try to engage all the candidates running for Congress in our state through the BEAT 08 campaign. For a myriad of reasons, including schedules, we weren't able to accomplish as much as we wanted. But we did keep the goals of the campaign in mind, which was to try whenever possible to have the candidates speak about hunger and poverty. And we succeeded in some measure. And fortunately, the candidates that we did contact were the ones who ended up getting elected. Thanks to LaVerne Kaufman and Jim Brown for staying on top of this.

Here are a few notes about each candidate.

Senator-elect Tom Udall

replacing Sen. Pete Domenici

I met Tom Udall at one of his meetings here in Las Cruces and as soon as I said, "Bread for the World" he recognized it and was very supportive.
Evidently (he) had been lobbied by members in the past.-LaVerne Kaufman

Indeed, we visited Rep. Udall's office in Washington a couple of times when he was representing the Third Congressional District to ask him to support anti-hunger initiatives. We were able to meet with him directly on one occasion (see above picture). Other times we met with aides. He was generally very supportive of Bread for the World's issues. And we will continue to lobby him in his new post in the Senate for the next six years.

Congressman-elect Martin Heinrich
replacing Rep. Heather Wilson in the First Congressional District

He is pictured here with President-elect Barack Obama

I think it's just a matter of priorities. We need to realize that when we do invest in developing nations and in reducing poverty, that has such an enormous impact on how people feel about us as a nation. -Martin Heinrich

The above comment came from an interview I did with Mr. Heinrich for a piece I was writing for the Bread for the World-New Mexico blog back in March, in which I interviewed all four people seeking the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District.

I had a chance to follow up with Mr. Heinrich at one of his campaign events in October. He again expressed support for the issue, but I also gave him literature about recent Bread for the World campaigns on the Farm Bill and on global poverty. I mentioned that if he was elected, we would come visit his office in Washington in June with a specific legislative request.

Like hundreds of folks here in Albuquerque, I am a friend of Martin Heinrich on Facebook.

Congressman-elect Harry Teague
replacing Rep. Steve Pearce in the Second Congressional District

Bob and I attended the opening of the Obama headquarters in Las Cruces last Saturday. Candidate Harry Teague was there and we talked with him for a few minutes. He said all the right things about hunger and the need for global assistance for people in poverty.

He spoke to the group and said things such as; " I know what it's like to want to go to college and to not afford it" and "I know what it's like to have parents who need health care and not have it". I was impressed by my conversation with him. -LaVerne Kaufman

Congressman-elect Ben Ray Lujan
replacing Rep. Tom Udall in the Third Congressional District

We weren't able to make any contact with candidate Lujan during the electoral campaign, so he is our priority. And we have begun the process of trying to arrange a meeting.

When I called Rep-elect Lujan's office I was told he expected to start meeting with people in a couple of weeks or so when he returns from DC (from an orientation for new members of Congress in mid-November) -Bro. Jim Brown

Rep.-elect Lujan is also my friend on Facebook, so I hope to reinforce Jim's request for a meeting. Bread member Heidi Ernst Jones of Santa Fe also expressed interest in participating in a meeting with the new congressman.

What we hope to discuss with Rep. Lujan and hopefully all the other newly elected officials in coming weeks is a reform of foreign aid, which is the subject of our Offering of Letters in 2009. The Bread for the World Institute put together a terrific
background paper It's in .pdf format so it might take some time to load, depending on your system.

So our work with our new congressional delegation is just beginning. And I want to take this opportunity to invite all of you in New Mexico to participate. Please drop me a note if you'd like to be part of a meeting with Reps-elect Heinrich, Teague and Lujan and maybe Sen.-elect Udall.

I also encourage you to try to attend our Offering of Letters workshops in February (more details to be announced). We hope to have one in each congressional district.

Finally, please join us for Lobby Day and the Bread for the World national gathering in Washingon on June 13-16. It would be great to have a representative from each of the congressional districts to lobby our new congressional delegation (plus our incumbent Sen. Jeff Bingaman).

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