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CD3 candidate criticized for support from ‘dark money groups’

SANTA FE, N.M. — What had been a rather civil Democratic Party primary campaign for the 3rd Congressional District flared up on Thursday when two candidates released statements criticizing another candidate, Teresa Leger Fernandez, for the support she’s receiving from so-called “dark money” groups.

Teresa Leger Fernandez

The statements were released following the taping of a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal that will air on KOAT-TV at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In a news release late Thursday afternoon, John Blair said that during the taping of the forum Leger Fernandez refused to denounce the dark money groups that are supporting her campaign. He called for Leger Fernandez to “demand the removal of ads from multiple dark money groups supporting her campaign.”

“Teresa has failed a simple test of our party’s values,” Blair said. “It’s clear that Teresa is unwilling to reject the help of secret special interests and rich donors, and that’s exactly what makes people hate politics.”

Two hours later, Marco Serna released a statement saying, “I am deeply disappointed to hear that Ms. Leger Fernandez has turned a blind eye to the influence of dark money in her campaign, especially when she has claimed to be a candidate for the people of New Mexico.”

John Blair

Earlier Thursday, a brief included in Politico’s “Morning Score” reported that two seemingly related dark money groups, Perise Practical Inc. and Avacy Initiatives Inc., have spent more than $300,000 on “positive bio spots that promote Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez and highlights her background and connection to the community.”

Leger Fernandez’s campaign manager, Emma Caccamo, responded to the criticism from Blair and Serna with a statement to the Journal saying that the campaign was “New Mexico powered” and that it hadn’t received any corporate PAC money.

“We don’t know anything about any other groups and saw their ads when everybody else did,” she said.

Television ads for Leger Fernandez, a Santa Fe attorney originally from Las Vegas, New Mexico, have been running with frequency on local television stations, especially during news broadcasts.

Marco Serna

Blair, a native Santa Fean with governmental experience at the state and federal level, and Serna, the 1st Judicial District Attorney, are also running TV ads.

Leger Fernandez’s campaign itself had raised more than $1 million through the first quarter of 2020, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. She trailed only former CIA operative Valerie Plame, who had raised nearly $1.7 million and is also running TV ads, in fundraising up to that point. But both candidates had similar amounts of money — each with more than $600,000 — left in their respective war chests as of March 31.

Leger Fernandez has gained momentum during the campaign. She won the delegate vote by a wide margin at state Democratic Party’s pre-primary convention in March, earning the first position on the ballot for the June 2 primary election. She also has picked up endorsements from such groups as EMILY’s List, End Citizens United, Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club. And earlier this week received the endorsement of 1st Congressional District incumbent Deb Haaland.

The 3rd Congressional District’s Democratic primary has seven names on the ballot. Besides Leger Fernandez, Plame, Blair and Serna, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura M. Montoya, state Rep. Joseph L. Sanchez of Alcalde and environmental attorney Kyle J. Tisdel of Taos are running for the seat being vacated by Ben Ray Luj├ín, who is running for U.S. Senate.