POJOAQUE PUEBLO – It was worth the wait for Teresa Leger Fernandez and Laura Montoya, the two candidates who assured themselves a spot on the ballot in June’s Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District after Saturday’s state Pre-Primary Convention in Pojoaque.
About two hours after state party chairwoman Marg Elliston announced results were almost ready – later saying that ballots were being counted and recounted – what was still described as “preliminary” results were read. But they left no doubt that Leger Fernandez was the overwhelming favorite of the 425 delegates casting votes in a field of seven candidates. The Santa Fe attorney originally from Las Vegas, N.M. won 178 votes, or 41.9%.
“How huge is this?” said Leger Fernandez, who tipped off the results by dancing in the aisles of the Tewa Ballroom at Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort about 20 minutes before the results were read. “When you have this big a margin, it shows you have a lot of enthusiasm behind you.”
Along with the win, Leger Fernandez earned the top spot on the ballot in the June 2 primary election.
Earlier, in her speech to a crowd that included 1,200 total delegates, Leger Fernandez, 60, said she was someone who reflected New Mexico. She said she grew up with it and knew its beauty, poverty, obstacles and promise.
“Our diversity is what makes us strong,” she said.
Montoya, the Sandoval County treasurer, got the support from that part of the district, which covers the northern half of the state. She received 87 votes, just two votes more than she needed to meet the 20% threshold to guarantee her name is on the primary ballot.
“This is the perfect example that every vote counts,” she reminded the crowd.
Candidates who failed to win 20% of the delegate vote can still get their name on the ballot in June but are required to submit a larger number of voter petition signatures within the next 10 days.
No one else came nearly as close. First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna of Santa Fe was next, garnering 13.4% of the vote, followed closely by state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde, who got 12.23%.
Former CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose campaign was winning the money race through 2019 with more than $1.1 million raised and national name recognition that made her one of the favorites, finished fifth, getting 22 votes, or 5.2%.
Former Obama Administration and state government official John Blair of Santa Fe received 19 votes, and environmental attorney Kyle Tisdel got 10 votes.
New Mexico Democrats are hoping to keep the state blue through the elections in November. The party holds both Senate seats and all three House districts in Washington, D.C. It also dominates at the state level, with Democrats holding every position in the executive branch of state government.
Wearing a deep blue skirt and jacket, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham set the tone for the event as the opening speaker. She highlighted her own first year in office, noting increases in state spending for education, salaries for teachers and early childhood education. She talked about raising the minimum wage, diversifying the economy and job growth.
“That’s what Democrats do. We deliver,” she said.
She also criticized President Trump, who she called “the worst President in the history of the United States.”
“He is unfit, unfair, and he must go,” she said.
All three of New Mexico’s representatives in Congress – Deb Haaland of the 1st Congressional District, Xochitl Torres Small of the 2nd Congressional District, and Ben Ray Luján – also gave short speeches and stressed the importance of keeping New Mexico blue.
Luján is vacating his 3rd Congressional District position to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tom Udall, who is retiring.