Growing up in a small town with a one-room schoolhouse on a native reservation in South Dakota, State Representative Liz Thomson and her six siblings got along well.
Sure, the siblings had their fair share of typical feuds, but the six sisters and their late sibling were close.
Their rural environment did not leave them many choices.
“We had to be friends with our siblings because there was no one else around, basically,” Thomson recalls with tenderness in his voice.
“If you weren’t playing with your siblings, you weren’t playing,” she said. “I mean, looking back, our closest neighbor was probably a mile away, and whether they had kids or not was a different story.”
The same goes for the relationship between siblings these days – and November’s general election highlights it.
Thomson, 62, a progressive Democrat who was first elected in 2012 and has represented the district continuously since 2017 (she lost the 2014 election but won the seat two years later), is running for up for reelection in House District 24, which includes one of the oldest parts of Albuquerque’s northeast heights.
His older sister, Mary Ingham, 67, is also on the ballot but for a different legislative seat. She is running for House District 10, a heavily Democratic district that covers the Far South Valley in unincorporated Bernalillo County and parts of southeast Albuquerque.
Unlike her sister, however, Ingham is a staunch pro-life Republican.
“It’s pretty rare that we’re both crazy enough to do that,” Ingham joked.
“It’s a humorous thing to consider, especially because she’s on the other side of the fence, so to speak,” she later said. “I think it’s a point of interest for a lot of people that it happened that way, and I think it’s a microcosm of the state that there are people [within the same family] who have different values and beliefs.
Their differences run much deeper than mere party affiliation.
Although Ingham was less forthcoming about the situation, Thomson said her sister’s decision not to get a COVID-19 shot caused a rift between the siblings, who remained “very close” until to what the pandemic hits.
“Since the beginning of COVID, there has been a change,” said Thomson.
Ingham “is COVID — well, she hasn’t been vaccinated, I’ll just say that, and it was tough for a lot of our family members,” Thomson said. “I don’t want to talk about who or what, but some partners, I will say, have major health issues that COVID would be really, really bad, and she and her husband haven’t been vaccinated, and that’s really created a rift in the family because we were all trying to protect the person who had no immunity, so we distanced ourselves from them only for health reasons.
Thomson said she and her other sisters were “very aware” of COVID-19, wore face masks and got vaccinated whenever they could.
“Our mother was a nurse,” she said, adding that her mother had worked with children with polio during her training.
“My mother was terrified that her children would get polio, and my older sister told me recently that when the polio vaccine was developed, my mother was almost giddy” that she could vaccinate three of her girls at the time, she said.
“She always told us, ‘People who don’t believe in vaccines haven’t seen the diseases. I saw the diseases. You all get vaccinated against anything, for everything, as soon as you can,” Thomson recalled. “That’s how we were all raised. The remaining sisters were all thrilled to get their COVID shots, and Mary chose not to, and it really caused a rift.
Ingham declined to disclose whether or not she has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or what she thinks about the vaccine.
“Our health information is private, so I don’t really want to publish it for the newspaper,” she said.
Ingham, however, said the COVID-19 vaccine played a role in the falling out with her sister.
“It hurts my heart,” she said, adding that she and her sister were “slowly” working to reconcile their relationship and recently spoke at a family reunion in Oregon.
“I’m really looking forward to building bridges while I’m in post with my family and also with other people,” she said. “I feel like part of the problem is that the media has really driven a narrative against people who, you know, may or may not be vaccinated. It’s not good. I think we have to look at the facts and trust the medical professionals.
Ingham said New Mexico’s COVID-19 restrictions were excessive.
“As we now know, COVID has had the greatest impact on older people,” she said. “The children weren’t vulnerable, so I think to take them out of school, to close the schools, to take away that freedom and the ability to learn, we’re now looking at the impact of that, of the loss of children two years of their studies.
Despite their political and personal differences, the two said they would work across the aisle if both won the election.
“I’m sure there are things we could hopefully agree on,” said Thomson, who, like her older sister, pursued a career in physical therapy.
They wouldn’t be the first siblings to sit in the Legislative Assembly if they won their races.
At least 12 sibling groups, including four brothers named Montoya who served in the 1960s and 1970s, have served in the New Mexico Legislative Assembly, Senior Legislative Librarian Joanne Vandestreek said.
Vandestreek said one of the listings in the state database had question marks next to it and she would need more time to research if there were 13 sibling groups in the Legislative Assembly.
Two pairs served at the same time: Representative Abel McBride and Senator Robert McBride and Senator Michael Sanchez and former Speaker of the House Raymond Sanchez.
The November election will determine whether Thomson and Ingham will be the third set of siblings to serve concurrently.
Ingham is running against Democrat G. Andrés Romero, who has served in the state House of Representatives since 2015.
Romero said his opponent’s relationship with a fellow House Democrat was not a factor in his campaign. He said he didn’t ask Thomson to endorse his candidacy, adding that he doesn’t usually ask colleagues for their endorsement.
“It’s just a usual election cycle, honestly,” he said.
Thomson’s opponent, Khalid Emshadi, takes a different approach. Last month he tweeted a photo of himself with Ingham and her husband, Stewart, calling them “true supporters” to win against Thomson in November.
“They said to me, ‘Khalid, we support you. We need you to win,” he said. “When we took this photo, the photo was on [Ingham’s] request. She said, “Khalid, post it, and we wish you all the best in winning the race against Liz.” ”
Thomson said she was “a little disappointed” to see the photo on Twitter.
“We were raised in the family,” she said. “Of course we have our feuds and everything, but in public you’re still family and supporting each other even if you’re not necessarily thrilled with what the other person is doing or whatever, so that’s it. was kind of like a slap in the face that she would support my opponent.
When asked if she endorsed Emshadi, Ingham initially refused to answer the question.
“I support my sister as a sister…and I support people who have the values that I have in terms of voters,” she said.
Ingham went on to say that she cannot vote in the Thomson and Emshadi legislative race because she lives in a different district. When asked who she would vote for if she did, Ingham reiterated her pro-life stance and said she would “support the candidate who has the same outlook on life and that would be Mr Emshadi”.
Emshadi called Ingham, who ran unsuccessfully against Senator Micheal Padilla two years ago, a conservative woman who believes in God, family and country.
“The other people, no. I mean his sister,” he said.
Thomson, who is staunchly progressive, said everyone should have the opportunity to throw their hat in the ring.
“She says the people of the South Valley deserve an option, and that’s great,” she said. “I don’t agree with his policy.”
Thomson said she was considering burying the hatchet with her sister.
“I miss her and I thought about it, but COVID is still here and she’s still not vaccinated,” she said. “I still love my sister. I will always love my sister. She will always be my sister, but at this point selfishness is too much for me to handle.
Although they spoke to each other recently, Ingham said his relationship with his sister was “quite distant”.
“COVID was a big factor in that,” she said. “It was hard. It divides a lot of families, and it’s quite sad.
While she and Thomson “live separate lives,” Ingham said they respect each other.
“We will always love each other and we will always be sisters,” she said.
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