Victor Reyes may be young, but he thinks there’s a chance for him to have a seat at the table. In January Governor Lujan Grisham’s legislative director decided to throw his hat in the ring for the 1st Congressional District, a seat that will open up in a special election if the U.S. Senate confirms incumbent Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who has been nominated for interior secretary.
Reyes grew up in El Paso, Texas, and moved to New Mexico as an adult. He quickly rose through the ranks as a community organizer and environmental advocate to become Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s legislative director.
He’s only 28 years old, but he doesn’t see that as a determent. “I’ve been a community advocate in some way my whole adult life. I want to be a voice for those that are not represented. They need to see someone who looks like them,” he said.
The Paper. spoke with Reyes just before Haaland’s confirmation hearing on Feb. 23 about what he thought he would bring to the table in the wake of the congresswoman’s historic term as one of the first Native American women to be elected to Congress. “Congresswoman Haaland knew that she had to be a voice for marginalized people, for people who look like her. She knew there was no time to waste, and that representation matters. I believe that as a member of the LGBTQ community and as a young person of color, we need to see more representation too,” he said.
Reyes sees himself as a progressive candidate and wants to address gun violence in schools. Another big focus is inequity in healthcare for disproportionately affecting minority populations in the state. He is also passionate about finding a solution to the broken immigration system. “Growing up on the border, I know firsthand how this immigration system separates families. I’ve worked with nonprofit groups in Deming who were helping asylum-seekers in an airport hanger. I believe in expanding the DACA program beyond just the Dreamers and making more work visas available,” he said.
A longtime advocate and national leader on reproductive freedom and justice, he serves as the Board Chair of Catholics for Choice and worked with a coalition of women, families and community organizations to repeal an antiquated law that would ban abortions in New Mexico. House Bill 10 now sits on the governor’s desk, and is expected to be signed into law quickly.
If elected, he would become the youngest congressional member. He would also be the first LGBTQ candidate elected to serve from New Mexico.