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‘Magnificent Seven’ Democrats zoom in on issues at online forum

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

About 225 people logged on for a candidate forum held via Zoom on Wednesday night for what the Democratic Party of Santa Fe County billed as “The Magnificent Seven” Democrats running for the 3rd Congressional District.

Less than a month before the June 2 primary election, the candidates had an opportunity to present their views on issues, talk about what distinguishes them from the other candidates and what they would do to benefit their northern New Mexico constituents if they are elected to Congress to replace Ben Ray Luján, who is running for retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s seat.

Santa Fe attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez brought up changing tax policy in her responses to two different questions. Asked which House committee they would like to be assigned to, she said the Ways and Means Committee because it addresses tax policy. She later cited tax policy reform and access to health care as two actions that could be taken in Congress to address inequality.

Laura Montoya pointed to the outreach program she established as Sandoval County treasurer as an example of what she has done to hold herself responsible to her constituency and get their feedback. Noting that she worked previously in a constituent services position, she mentioned locating tax payment drop boxes at different locations around the county and signs with her office’s phone number as some of the steps she took to be accessible to constituents.

First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna said helping change the viewpoint and culture surrounding the opioid epidemic was the one accomplishment he’s most proud of that highlighted his skill set. He said he created a wellness court for nonviolent drug offenders and helped secure funding for the program. He called addressing that issue his main focus and one that would have a positive impact on the people he would represent in Congress.

State Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde said he would most like to be assigned to the House Appropriations Committee, which regulates government spending. He noted he currently is vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the statehouse, and highlighted his past experience as general manager of the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative and as a problem-solving engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Valerie Plame said her proudest accomplishment was serving her country as a covert CIA officer with expertise in counter-nuclear proliferation. Sometimes, she said, intelligence she gathered would end up on the president’s desk. She said her job at the CIA required skills in problem-solving, crisis management and the ability to bring people from different parts of the world to the table.

John Blair of Santa Fe, who has worked in government positions at the state and federal level, said the two issues he would most like to take on in Congress to address inequality were overturning President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and helping push through the Equality Act. Blair, who is gay, said the one accomplishment he’s most proud of is working to establish the Stonewall National Monument in New York City, the first LGBTQ national monument.

Kyle Tisdel, a public interest environmental attorney from Taos, worked to distinguish himself from the others by saying he was the one candidate who didn’t build a career around politics. He said that the current political system is bogged down by the status quo and outside voices are needed. He said he has spent a career fighting against the status quo on environmental issues, such as fracking and the extraction of fossil fuels.

At the start of the forum, each candidate was asked to name a mentor or historical figure that had a significant influence on them.

Plame said Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Serna cited civil rights activist César Chávez; Blair went with former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, whom he used to work for; Montoya hailed another former senator from New Mexico, Dennis Chavez; Tisdel said Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Sanchez said John F. Kennedy; and Leger Fernandez said her late father, former state Sen. Ray Leger.

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