Deb Haaland’s victory in the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday positions her to be the first Native American woman to serve in Congress. The district has been held by a Democrat since 2009 and voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a 17-point margin.
Interestingly, though, it’s not the most heavily Native American congressional district in the country — by a wide margin.
It’s not the case, of course, that voters cast ballots only for candidates who share their racial or ethnic background. Utah’s 4th District is represented by Rep. Mia Love (R), a black woman, even though it’s got one of the smallest black populations in the country.
New Mexico’s 1st District is about 5 percent Native American, ranking it 14th nationally. Compare that to the average African American density of House districts represented by black members, nearly 43 percent. The most densely Native American district, according to Census Bureau data, is Oklahoma’s 2nd. It’s more than a quarter Native American.
The most heavily Native American House districts run in a line from Oklahoma through Arizona. New Mexico’s 1st is actually the least Native American in the state.
(It’s worth noting North Carolina’s 9th District, which includes the home of the Lumbee tribe, 55,000 of whom live on the border with South Carolina.)
Haaland would not be the first Native American to serve in Congress. Many Native American men have served in Congress. Nor, of course, would she be the first woman to serve in Congress. There has not traditionally been, however, a correlation between the density of the population of women in a House district and the likelihood that a woman would be elected to represent that district in Congress.