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Lujan named amongst influentials

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Ben Ray Luján considered one of the most influential Hispanics

By Carol A. Clark

Hispanic Business Magazine has named Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., one of the 100 most influential Hispanics, as part of its annual list. The list includes leaders in business, law, media and education, as well as politics and other fields.  

“It is an honor to be recognized with such a prestigious group of influential Hispanic leaders. We’re all doing what we believe is right to make things better for other people and for the country,” Luján said during an interview from Washington, D.C. Friday.   

“Many of those on the list are people I look to for inspiration and advice and it is a privilege to be listed among them.”

Included on this year’s list, along with Luján, are national figures such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and United States Treasurer Rosa Gumatatotao Rios.  

Voters from Northern New Mexico’s Third Congressional District elected Luján to the United States Congress last November. The seat became available when Democrat Tom Udall decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by longtime Republican leader Pete Domenici, who retired last year.

Luján, 37, chairs the task force on energy and is vice chair of the energy and environment committee, which advocates for Native American and Hispanic participation, he said. He also chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Green Economy and Renewable Energy Task Force, where he focuses on the role of the Hispanic community in clean energy issues.

“The thing that has surprised me most here in Washington is the support you get from your colleagues. If you are willing to work hard and to come prepared, then they are willing to help provide advice and mentoring and even make their staff available to provide support,” Luján said. “What I dislike the most is the frustration of not being able to truly do more. Whether advocating for heath care or a stronger energy policy — you just want to get it done quickly. There’s always more to do and to strive for to make things better for New Mexico.”

Every chance they get, New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation talks up their state, Luján said.

“Whether in my Homeland Security Committee or my Science and Technology Committee, I let my colleagues know Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading in cyber security and in the modeling sciences,” Luján said. “In collaboration with other institutions, Los Alamos leads the way with providing modeling of the H1N1 flu. It’s incredible what Los Alamos has to offer and I take every opportunity to talk to my colleagues about it.”

Luján’s National Environmental Research Park Bill passed the House and is now in the Senate. The bill would formally authorize funding for six NERPs, including one in Los Alamos. The research conducted at the NERPs, which have existed for decades, produces valuable data that can be used to fight climate change and clean up contaminated sites. With the new authorization and consistent funding, scientists can expand their research activities. Luján’s legislation authorizes $5 million for each NERP for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2014.

Luján moved into a basement apartment within walking distance to his office in the Cannon Building when he first arrived in Washington nearly one year ago.

It’s very nice and he enjoys walking to work, he said, adding that he keeps his umbrella handy or is quick on his feet to duck under shelter when sudden rain showers hit.

Born and raised in New Mexico, Luján grew up in Nambé, the small farming community east of Los Alamos, bordered by the pueblos of Nambé and Pojoaque.