SANTA FE – Former CIA operative and author Valerie Plame officially announced her candidacy Thursday for an open U.S. congressional seat in northern New Mexico, joining several other Democrats in an increasingly crowded race.
Plame, who has not run for elected office before, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week and said in an interview the timing is right to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat in 2020.
“I like the idea that maybe I get to serve my country again,” she told the Journal.
Plame became a national figure after her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush’s administration in 2003 in an effort to discredit her then-husband Joe Wilson. Wilson is a former diplomat who criticized Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Plame left the agency in 2005 and moved to Santa Fe in 2007.
Plame, whose work with the CIA focused on stopping nuclear proliferation, said in her Thursday campaign announcement she would work as hard representing New Mexico in Congress as she had “defending our country from nuclear threats.”
She also said she was trained to manage multimillion-dollar budgets and run covert operations for the CIA – not typical skills for a congressional candidate.
“I like to think they added up to who I am today,” she said. “I’m not a career politician but I’m figuring it out.”
Plame, who described herself as a progressive Democrat, cited access to health care, rising prescription drug costs, education and economic opportunity as top priorities if elected.
While opponents could question her ties to New Mexico, Plame said the state has become her “heart” and that she has now lived here longer than anywhere else in her life.
But she could face scrutiny for the 2017 sharing of an article on social media that some called anti-Semitic. Plame initially defended her actions but later apologized. The Twitter account she posted the apology on appeared Thursday to have been deleted.
Meanwhile, the seat Plame is running for is currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M, who announced last month he would run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by incumbent U.S. Sen. Tom Udall. Plame had previously said she was considering running for either the House seat or for Senate.
Several other candidates are also vying for the Democratic-leaning congressional seat that stretches across the northern half of the state and encompasses Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, Clovis and Farmington, along with the Navajo Nation and other tribal lands.
Santa Fe lawyer Teresa Leger, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Gavin Kaiser of Santa Cruz have all declared candidacies. Republican Brett Kokinadis of Santa Fe is the lone GOP candidate currently in the race, while 1st Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna, a Democrat, is also considering a run.
New Mexico’s primary election is scheduled for June 2, 2020, with the general election set for November 2020.