3rd Congressional District Candidates Make Their Cases

Only Teresa Leger Fernandez and Laura Montoya earn enough delegate votes for automatic ballot position

Santa Fe lawyer Teresa Leger Fernandez emerged as the party favorite at the Democratic Party of New Mexico's pre-primary convention March 7, winning 41.9% of the delegate vote in the seven-way contest for the 3rd Congressional District. Leger Fernandez was followed by Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya, who received 20.4% of the vote, according to the Democratic Party's release of preliminary results.

As such, only Leger Fernandez and Montoya secured spots on the ballot for the primary election June 2. Candidates were required to receive at least 20% of the vote in order to qualify, although the other candidates can collect additional signatures in order to be placed on the ballot. Each of the candidates made short speeches to 1,200 delegates from across the state who gathered at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino for the day's events.

Following her speech but prior to the vote results, Leger Fernandez told SFR the enthusiasm for her campaign was the result of a grassroots campaign. "The energy and the excitement that's been building, the way you do what we did today is you get people excited about your vision, your mission, your story… love was the most talked about thing today because that's the antidote to where we're at," she said.

Leger Fernandez has received endorsements from numerous national organizations, including Emily's List, NARAL and the Sierra Club.

Several Santa Fe delegates were on hand in support of Leger Fernandez' candidacy. They included District 1 City Councilor Renee Villarreal, who said it was her first time as a delegate. "I've been active in our ward," Villarreal said. "And when I started doing this and getting more involved, I felt like more people within the ward should be participating, not just someone who's an elected official…but  this year I thought, 'I want to be a delegate!'"

Melissa McDonald, the City of Santa Fe's river watershed coordinator, said she too was serving as a delegate for the first time, and supporting Leger Fernandez. "I decided I wanted to get really involved in this election," McDonald said. "It's important to me we have a blue wave." As for her candidate in the 3rd Congressional District, "I think she's a great unifier and I think we're all looking for people who can be unifiers in this election."

Montoya took the stage singing the chorus of Hailee Steinfeld's "Most Girls" before talking about her focus on rural communities. "Growing up in Las Vegas and Mora, we are rich in culture, education and community, but we are poor in infrastructure, economic development and access to many of the things big cities have, like doctors, jobs and opportunities for advancement. How I was raised, where I grew up and my experience make me look at service in a different light," she said.

Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna, who ultimately received 13.4% of the vote, was flanked by his twin brother JonCarlo, and nominated by his parents; his father, Eric Serna, ran for and lost the same seat in a 1998 special election. "My candidacy…is rooted in my commitment to public service," Marco Serna told the audience. "I was raised to believe in the work of Dr. King, JFK, Cesar Chavez and Mother Teresa. These giants taught me that the most effective tool against bigotry and hatred is the courage to rise up in the face of adversity with the resolve of your convictions."

State Rep. Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde, stressed his experience in the Legislature as well as his priorities on infrastructure and fighting addiction. He earned 12.2% of the vote. Former CIA agent Valerie Plame came in fifth with 5% of the vote, after emphasizing in her speech her experience in Washington, DC. "I stand here today as the only candidate that has fought a corrupt administration," she said "My battle against the Bush/Cheney White House makes me uniquely qualified to fight on your behalf."

Plame was followed by John Blair with 4.5% of the vote. Blair, a former New Mexico deputy secretary of state who also worked for President Barack Obama's Interior Department, as well as for US Sen. Martin Heinrich when he in the House of Representatives, discussed both his government experience, as well as the "historic" value his election would represent as the state's first LGBTQ member of Congress. "I know first-hand what it is to put progressive ideas in action," Blair said. After his speech, Blair told SFR that regardless of the day's voting outcome, he had already been collecting the qualifying signatures to get on the ballot.

Lastly, Taos environmental lawyer Kyle Tisdale earned 2.3% of the vote, following a speech that focused on the importance of environmental issues in the district and election overall. After his speech, Tisdale told SFR he also planned to stay in the race regardless of the delegate vote. He said voters were responding positively to the campaign's focus. "First and foremost, with climate, there is an urgency to it. I think it's important we raise that alarm and make sure that we're helping to share the information."

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