HomePoliticsTeresa Leger Fernandez Beats Valerie Plame in New Mexico House Primary

Teresa Leger Fernandez Beats Valerie Plame in New Mexico House Primary

Teresa Leger Fernandez, a progressive candidate who played up her deep roots in New Mexico, defeated the former C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame early Wednesday in the Democratic primary election for the state’s Third Congressional District.

Ms. Plame, who rose to fame after her identity was leaked during George W. Bush’s administration, ran a well-funded campaign in what is widely regarded as a safe Democratic district. Her debut television advertisement, in which she drove a Chevy Camaro backward through the desert, attracted national attention for its James Bond-style flash. But it may have helped contribute to her defeat, as she faced persistent criticism that she was an outsider.

By contrast, Ms. Leger Fernandez emphasized her long history in the district throughout her campaign. She received endorsements from high-profile national Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

“In New Mexico, we recognize there’s nothing to gain in demonizing an other,” Ms. Leger Fernandez said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s clear that voters liked that I am a Latina, based in the land and respectful of the land, and have complete acknowledgment of how we are different and that can be celebrated.”

The northern New Mexico district is at the center of the state’s deep Hispanic culture, and also includes more than a dozen Pueblo tribes, the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Hispanics make up 41 percent of the district’s population, while Native Americans make up 19 percent.

The district has been represented since 2009 by Ben Ray Luján, who became the highest-ranking Hispanic person in the House and is now running for the Senate.

The congressional race attracted several Hispanic Democrats with deep roots in the state, including Ms. Leger Fernandez, a Yale-educated lawyer who received endorsements from the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Emily’s List and the Latino Victory Fund, a political action committee that works to elect progressive Hispanic leaders.

Another candidate, Joseph Sanchez, a state legislator, emphasized his family’s 12-generation history in New Mexico. And Marco Serna, the Santa Fe district attorney, attacked Ms. Plame by accusing her of misunderstanding local values and exaggerating her C.I.A. exploits.

Ms. Plame had significantly out-raised and outspent her rivals, much of the money coming from donors outside the district who were impressed by her vows to take on President Trump. Along with her former husband, Joseph C. Wilson, Ms. Plame, now 56, left Washington for Santa Fe when her identity was leaked after Mr. Wilson undercut the Bush administration’s 2003 claim that Iraq was trying to build nuclear weapons.

Ms. Plame testified to Congress that she blamed the Bush administration for intentionally disclosing her identity and undermining her career, a contention she has maintained and cited as a motivation to run.

Ms. Plame said in an interview that she had been raised by “Rockefeller Republicans” and voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. But she said that she “didn’t know better at the time,” and that her politics and worldview had changed since then.

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