Q&A: 3rd Congressional District Candidate Teresa Leger Fernandez
- NAME: Teresa Leger Fernandez
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: Social impact lawyer
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Santa Fe
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Leger Law and Strategy, LLC. (before 2012: Nordhaus Law Firm) Worked for 30 years for this community, district and New Mexico: supported Native American tribes on economic development; leveraged over $900 million in financing and federal grants to build health clinics, businesses, Head Start, schools, infrastructure, water and wastewater facilities; fought for and won the Voting Rights Act claims to protect voters from gerrymandered districts in 2001 and 2011; advocated in support of community solar, environmental and education reform; vice chair, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – appointed by President Obama; White House Fellow – appointed by President Clinton, served as Special Assistant to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development…
- EDUCATION: Yale University, B.A.; Stanford Law School, J.D., with distinction
- Campaign Website: teresaforall.com
What is your opinion of justice in policing legislation introduced in Congress recently after protests following George Floyd’s death?
The nation is calling on Congress to address racial injustice in policing. I am supportive of the legislation passed by the House, which would ban chokeholds, no-knock warrants and require the use of body-cams. It’s the Senate’s obligation to act and hear this legislation.
What is your opinion of the use of federal law enforcement officers in operations such as Operation Legend in which additional officers were sent to Albuquerque?
The federal government’s role is to provide real resources to help solve the problems we face – not play politics with force and intimidation. I reject efforts to use fear and division as a politicized response to overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations around police brutality and racial injustice.
What is your opinion of the coronavirus response packages passed by Congress and signed by President Trump? Is there anything you would have done differently?
The packages were good first steps, but we must increase support to state and local governments, focus on small businesses, direct resources to Native Americans, include immigrants in testing and economic programs, and ensure that unemployment and other benefits last until the pandemic and economic crisis ends. The HEROES Act, passed by the House, contains many of these provisions.
What actions to restore the economy, if any, do you feel Congress should take once the outbreak has been contained?
We need a recovery package that will provide jobs and pull us out of this recession. If we reinvest in infrastructure – including broadband, clean water, rural health clinics – support small businesses, instate permanent paid family leave, and tackle the climate crisis, we can build a healthier, more just and sustainable future.
What is your position regarding climate change? What actions should Congress take, if any, regarding the environment?
Climate change is an existential crisis. Congress must act to reduce carbon pollution, invest in wind and solar, and pass clean energy tax incentives while reducing fossil fuel subsidies. The U.S. must also rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.
What is your opinion on energy initiatives that have been introduced both on the federal and state level such as the Green New Deal and the New Mexico Energy Transition Act?
I agree with the ETA’s renewable portfolio standards and investments in Four Corners and fully support the principles of the Green New Deal. A bedrock principle of the GND is to create new jobs, address the negative impacts to affected communities, and invest in places like New Mexico as we transition to a cleaner energy future.
Fracking bans have been introduced in Congress by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren… Where do you stand on the issue?
We must transition to green, clean energy and do so in a way that creates economic opportunity and honors and supports those coming out of oil and gas jobs.
What is your position on the leasing of federal land for oil, gas and mineral development? Do you agree with the removal of energy development in a 10-mile radius around Chaco archaeological sites? Are there other areas of the state that should be considered for similar treatment?
New drilling should not proceed within the federal lands of the proposed Chaco buffer zone. The Bureau of Land Management should undertake a thorough cultural and economic survey of our public lands to determine how extractive resources undermine other viable economic and cultural activities that could be undertaken on our public lands.
What are the most important actions Congress should take regarding people now living illegally in the U.S.? What about for those who want to come in?
Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, keeps families together and treats everyone with dignity. Congress must also pass the DREAM Act, which must also extend to dreamers’ families.
Do you believe the borders are secure enough? If not, what do you propose to increase security?
I strongly oppose Trump’s expensive, racist and ineffective border wall. We should deploy technology and intelligence to combat criminal activity and contraband which flows primarily through ports of entry. We should not punish or treat inhumanely asylum seekers who have a legal right to seek refuge at our borders.
Do you favor a federal ban on the sale of military style semi-automatic rifles? If so, what would you do about the millions of such weapons now legally owned by American citizens? What other, if any, gun law reforms would you support?
Yes. Existing assault weapons should be placed under the jurisdiction of the National Firearms Act, which regulates weapons like machine guns and balances rights of law-abiding gun owners with the need to protect our communities. I also support background checks on all gun sales, among other common-sense gun safety measures.
Federal spending plays an important role in New Mexico’s economy. What should be done to increase other economic drivers here?
New Mexico has incredible resources, from our abundant wind and solar to the technology at our labs to the talent and creativity of our local communities. We should use all our resources to tackle our climate crisis, build a green and innovation-based economy while also promoting recreation and tourism.
Congress passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Are there any other trade initiatives you’d like to see Congress pass if you’re elected?
In Congress, I would support trade policy that protects workers and working families and prioritizes their wellbeing over that of corporations and special interests – while protecting our environment at the same time.
Do you favor or oppose a national single payer health system?
I support a transition to a single-payer health system with key principles: no discrimination for pre-existing conditions; lower prescription drug costs; no bankrupting copays or deductibles; increased funding for rural health centers and more equitable payments to doctors for similar services. This pandemic shows the dangers of tying health care to employment.
Do you favor or oppose limits on late-term abortion, and do you believe tax dollars should or should not be used to fund abortions?
I fully support every woman’s right to make her own health care decisions without government interference and in consultation with her medical care provider and those she trusts, and strongly oppose attempted restrictions on reproductive freedom. I support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which denies many women access to the health care that they need.
What should be done at the federal level to address the crisis of opioid addiction? Any other drugs?
This issue is close to my heart because I lost two brothers to addiction and substance abuse. We must treat this as a public health crisis, and ensure that treatment is covered as health care. In Congress, I would support the CARE Act, which would invest $100 billion in prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
Why do you want to be a member of Congress?
I’ve spent 30 years working with New Mexico’s diverse populations to build healthy, thriving communities. I know I can have an even bigger impact in Congress. I’ve built health centers, worked on broadband and infrastructure, fought for voting rights, and protected our water.
1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.