New Mexico voters embraced candidates in the 2020 elections that have historically been underrepresented, including women, in elected office. The state saw a slew of “firsts” this year.
For the first time in the state’s history, New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held by women of color. And both Yvette Herrell, who will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and Deb Haaland, who won reelection to the state’s 1st Congressional District, are enrolled members of Indigenous nations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo, and Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, making New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to have two Indigenous Representatives.
Teresa Leger Fernandez, who won New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is Latina.
Terrelene Massey, Diné (Navajo) and the executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said she’s really excited to see more representation from women, especially women of color and Native American women. “I think they’ll provide different perspectives on the different issues they’ll be working on,” Massey said.
Teresa Leger Fernandez beat Republican Alexis Johnson for the open seat in the House of Representatives for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District.
The Associated Press called the election for Leger Fernandez at 9:12 p.m., with 83 percent of precincts reporting partial results and 10 percent of precincts reported full results. Leger Fernandez thanked those who voted for her, and said she will work to earn the trust of those who did not vote for her, in her victory speech. “I promise to listen to your voices and strategize with you to help us all solve our common problems,” she said during a virtual election event held by the New Mexico Democratic Party. “2021 will be transformative as we address the failures that have caused so much death and misery, as we resolve ourselves to act in unison, in the face of a crisis.”
Leger Fernandez runs the Santa Fe-based social impact law firm Leger Law and Strategy. She was appointed as vice chair to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under President Barack Obama’s administration.
The final Albuquerque Journal poll ahead of the elections showed large leads for Democrats in the race for president and U.S. Senate, as well as two of the three U.S. House races—but one House race is extremely close. The poll, conducted by Research and Polling, found a lead of 12 percentage points for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump for president, 54 percent to 42 percent among those who are likely to vote or who have already voted. Most analysts have listed New Mexico as a safely or likely Democratic state on the presidential level. Democrats have won New Mexico’s five electoral votes in the last three presidential elections. The Journal reported Biden had large leads among women, Hispanic voters and moderates in addition to liberals.
This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s federal candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to our energy future, water scarcity and climate change.
You can find all our congressional candidate interviews here.
The following interview is with Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat who is running for New Mexico’s Third Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján. Luján is running for the open U.S. Senate seat.
Leger Fernandez runs the Santa Fe-based social impact law firm Leger Law and Strategy. She was appointed as vice chair to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under President Barack Obama’s administration. She was also appointed as a White House Fellow by President Bill Clinton.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. The vacancy her seat creates will now give Republicans the opportunity to try to place another conservative justice to the bench. President Donald Trump, reacting to two Supreme Court decisions in June that he didn’t like, tweeted that he would have a new list of conservatives to appoint to the bench by September 1. Within just a few hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not wait to bring to a vote for a Trump appointee this election year, according to multiple media sources.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small spoke during the political action committee Emily’s List virtual conference this week, highlighting women’s accomplishments in politics. Lujan Grisham took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s “refusal to do the bare minimum,” during the pandemic as she highlighted the accomplishment’s women have made, particularly during the public health emergency. She cited governors Gretchen Whitmer, of Michigan, and Gina Raimondo, of Rhode Island, in particular, for their leadership during the pandemic and called New Mexico “a leader in electing women.”
“Almost a third of women of color who have ever served in any statewide executive office are from New Mexico,” she said in an online speech. “We have the opportunity this fall to send an all women of color House delegation to Washington, D.C. and we have the momentum on our side.”
Lujan Grisham was referring to Democratic candidates Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Torres Small, the incumbent Democratic candidate running to keep her seat for the state’s 2nd Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, another incumbent Democrat running to keep her seat for the 1st Congressional District. Torres Small spoke briefly about some of the difficulties of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico during the pandemic and how COVID-19 exposed inequities that have “existed since the birth of our nation.”
She cited the lack of water and lack of adequate living situations in the Navajo Nation as having contributed to the spread of the disease in the Navajo Nation.
As the Democratic primary in New Mexico’s third congressional district heated up in May, two mysterious groups– Avacy Initiatives and Perise Practical– began spending a combined $300,000 to support Teresa Leger Fernandez, now the Democratic nominee. The groups ran positive, even glowing advertisements about Leger Fernandez, but didn’t disclose who paid for the ads. Few details could be found about them online. This “dark money” spending drew significant criticism from other candidates, who condemned Leger Fernandez for not calling for removal of the ads.
This story was originally published by New Mexico In Depth
But a review by New Mexico In Depth of Federal Election Commission filings suggests the real goal was to deny another candidate in the race—Valerie Plame— the win by boosting the prospects of the Leger Fernandez campaign.
It’s not uncommon for groups to spend money to support one candidate in order to prevent another candidate from winning. But when groups don’t disclose their donors, voters are left in the dark about the motives behind such efforts.
“Our voting public is incredibly busy, and doesn’t have time to do research on every single one of the candidates,” said Heather Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico.
Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez won the seven-way Democratic primary on Tuesday.
As of 2 a.m., Leger Fernandez had 41.89 percent of the vote, while her closest competitor, former CIA officer Valerie Plame, had 22.95 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press projected Leger Fernandez as the winner shortly before 11 p.m.
“This is a win for communities, families and workers all across our district, and I am grateful for the trust that voters have placed in our campaign’s vision for Northern New Mexico. Even in a time when we must continue to stay physically distant and so much tries to divide us, this campaign has always been about interconnectedness and coming together,” Leger Fernandez said in a statement. Related: Herrell wins GOP primary, will face Torres Small again for CD2 seat in general election
Leger Fernandez is an attorney and activist from Santa Fe who emphasized her roots in the district during her campaign. Fernandez received the support of a number of national organizations, including EMILY’s List and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was often overshadowed on a national scale by Plame, whose ads showcasing her driving skills helped get her national attention and fundraising support.