Election 2020: Teresa Leger Fernandez hopes to represent Congressional District 3

Leger Fernandez visited San Juan County to campaign

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • The lawyer has been endorsed by the political action committee EMILY's List
  • She says health care and the environment are under attack.
  • Leger Fernandez talks about building a "Route 66 of solar."

FARMINGTON — Teresa Leger Fernandez, 60, may not be a household name, but she is working to change that in northern New Mexico.

Leger Fernandez is running to be the Democratic candidate to represent Congressional District 3 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM. Luján is running for U.S. Senate, which leaves the seat up for grabs in the 2020 election.

Leger Fernandez is one of about half a dozen candidates sparring for the Democratic Party nomination.

Leger Fernandez’s campaign brought her to San Juan County this week where she met with Democratic community members.

Leger Fernandez was born in Las Vegas, graduated from Stanford

Teresa Leger Fernandez is pictured, Friday, July 19, 2019, during a fundraiser in Farmington.

Leger Fernandez was born into a very large Hispanic family in Las Vegas, New Mexico. She said she comes from a family of politicians, or public servants. Her mother was a bilingual educator Manuelita de Atocha (Mela) Lucero and her father was former state Sen. Ray Leger. 

She said she got her start in a Headstart program in Las Vegas and ended up graduating with a law degree from Stanford Law School in California. She also received a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University. However, she always loved New Mexico and returned to her home state after graduating.

She describes her law career as focused on building communities. That includes working closely with tribes and Pueblos in New Mexico. She also worked to increase access to affordable housing and to get health care clinics built in the state.

At the same time, Leger Fernandez is no stranger to Washington, D.C. politics. She was a White House Fellow when Bill Clinton was president and President Barack Obama appointed her to the Advisory Council On Historic Preservation.

EMILY's List endorses Leger Fernandez

Teresa Leger Fernandez talks with a community member, Friday, July 19, 2019, during a fundraiser in Farmington.

Her work has earned her an endorsement from EMILY’s List, a political action committee focused on getting pro-choice Democratic women elected.

EMILY's List describes her as “an experienced and passionate leader,” “a champion for New Mexico Working families” and “an opportunity to bring a new perspective to Congress.”

Leger Fernandez talks about why she is running for Congress

A heart with the words "Protect What You Love" greeted people attending her fundraiser in Farmington, and several hand-painted signs were displayed.

“I believe that we as a community all love our democracy, our planet, our families, our communities,” Leger Fernandez said. “And what we love, I would say, is under attack... We all know that climate change is real and that we must take bold action to protect (our planet). Our health care is under attack and if Obamacare is repealed by the courts we’ll have a mess. So there’s lots of issues that I care deeply about and when you care deeply about something, you need to act on it.”

Leger Fernandez supports a 'Green New Deal for New Mexico'

Teresa Leger Fernandez stands outside a house, Friday, July 19, 2019, prior to a fundraiser in Farmington.

She described San Juan County as a part of what she is calling the “Green New Deal for New Mexico.” That includes building a “Route 66 of solar.” Leger Fernandez said the transmission lines in San Juan County would be a part of this “Route 66 of solar.”

Leger Fernandez supports renewable energy and worked on the Community Solar Act — which did not pass during the last New Mexico legislative session.

She was skeptical about the proposal to install carbon capture technology on the San Juan Generating Station to keep it open after 2022.

“Coal is not our future,” she said. “Coal is not the planet’s future.”

Her vision for the “Green New Deal for New Mexico” also includes investing in small farmers and ranchers who can do regenerative agriculture. She said regenerative agriculture can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Candidate discusses infrastructure

Teresa Leger Fernandez speaks, Friday, July 19, 2019, during a fundraiser in Farmington.

Leger Fernandez said there needs to be 21st century infrastructure development in rural areas, such as the chapter houses surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. She said bringing broadband to those areas could create business opportunities.

“I say we need to build the 21st century infrastructure, but we also need to finish building the 20th century infrastructure in some of our communities because a lot of our communities don’t have 20th century infrastructure,” she said. “They don’t yet have clean water. And I’ve done a lot of that.”

She said she has worked to get $70 million of financing grants for communities that don’t have clean water.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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