Latina congressional candidate seeks north New Mexico seat

May 17, 2019 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe-based attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez launched her campaign Thursday for the Democratic nomination to an open congressional seat in 2020, raising the prospect of a House delegation from New Mexico comprised entirely of ethnic-minority women.

The legal adviser to local Native American communities and a nonprofit that fights human trafficking, Leger Fernandez announced her campaign from her native city of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

In a phone conversation Thursday, she cited environmental protection as a top political priority and pledged support for major investments in clean energy infrastructure — a so-called Green New Deal — that she says can offer new sources of income to ranchers and trim New Mexico’s economic dependence on oil.

“Now is the time to act to protect what we love,” Leger Fernandez said. “We need to act to protect our planet from the ravages of climate change.”

Leger Fernandez hails from a prominent family in local politics and touted her familiarity and personal connections with northern New Mexico’s unique blend of Native American, Hispanic and Anglican cultures.

Leger Fernandez is the daughter of former state Sen. Ray Leger. She said her parents, both educators, helped write the state’s 1973 Bilingual and Multicultural Education Act that officially incorporated Spanish and indigenous languages and history into public school requirements.

“I’d be the first Latina woman to represent the north” of the state in Congress, said Leger Fernandez. “It’s important to have those perspectives from the community and have those voices in Congress.”

In the state’s two other congressional districts, Native American U.S. Reps. Debra Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member, and Xochitl Torres Small, a granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, won their first elections last year.

The Democratic primary is likely to be decisive in the heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District. At least six contenders are vying for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Nambé as he runs for Senate.


Leger Fernandez joins a crowded field of Democrats that include former CIA operative Valerie Plame, Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde, and former Navajo Nation presidential and vice presidential candidate Dineh Benally.

A campaign website describes Leger Fernandez, 59, as a mother of three and cancer survivor, who serves on the volunteer board of a nonprofit affordable housing group.