Participating in the League of Women Voters Congressional District 3 Republican candidates forum April 30 are, clockwise from top left, Angela Gale Morales, LWV moderator Lynn Jones, Harry B. Montoya, Alexis M. Johnson and moderator Ellen Mills. Screenshot/Los Alamos Reporter
All seven Democratic candidates for Congressional District 3 participated in the LWV April 30 forum. Pictured are: top row from left, moderator Lynn Jones, Kyle Tisdel and Teresa Leger Fernandez. Middle row: John Blair, moderator Barbara Calef and Laura M. Montoya. Bottom row: Joseph Sanchez, Valerie Plame and Marco Serna. Screenshot/Los Alamos Reporter
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A large field of candidates in the Congressional District 3 race appears to make it harder for some local residents to choose who to vote for. The League of Women Voters of Los Alamos conducted two forums April 29 and April 30 for Democratic and Republicans candidates for the congressional seat.
The two events may be viewed in full at https://my.lwv.org/new-mexico/los-alamos
The introductory statements of the candidates are covered here in the order in which the candidates spoke. They were also asked comprehensive questions on issues facing the nation and the state and their answers may be heard by visiting the LWV website above.
Teresa Leger Fernandez – Democrat
Leger Fernandez said she is running on the platform of “protecting what we love”.
“Protecting what we love – our healthcare, our communities, our democracy – is never as important as it is now because this pandemic has told us and shown us that the problems we have in our system in each of those areas is fractured and it means that we are not able to respond to this pandemic in the way we should,” she said. She noted that her heart is crying daily as she reads the reports about clinics which are being hit hard.
“I worked on democracy with regards to voting rights, so as we move into the system, to make sure that we are all voting and participating has been very key to what I want and with regards to what I know and will do. In these key areas, environment, I’ve worked in those areas,” she said. “I have put millions of dollars of broadband in the ground for different communities and I have also been frustrated in those times when I haven’t put broadband in some of the communities that right now are impacted. We were.
Leger Fernandez said she is from Las Vegas, New Mexico and went to HeadStart there.
“I was lucky and got to go to Yale and then graduated from Stanford Law School. I came back home and have been working in the community for 30 years, building affordable housing, working on health clinics, building businesses, a wide range of issues. I’ve also had two presidential appointments. With President Clinton I was a White House fellow. I helped put together one of the very first White House conferences on housing. I was a special assistant to the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development,” she said. “With President Obama, because of my history and experience in cultural preservation and environment, I was his vice chair on his advisory council on historic preservation. I have deep knowledge of the district but also I know the Washington that matters to New Mexico and I believe I have the combination of local experience and working at the highest levels of government .”
Laura M. Montoya- Democrat
Montoya noted that voters won’t see her on TV because she doesn’t have any money from outside of New Mexico, but that she can be followed on Facebook and on her website.
Montoya said her family is from Las Vegas and Mora. Her mother is an educator and her father is a retired Department of Transportation road supervisor and current councilor in Las Vegas.
“My family has always been a family of service in our own unique way. Mine has gone in the direction of public service in creating policies that promote equitability and transparency as well as fairness. For the past 20 years I have worked in the federal, state and local government. I started off working for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman while I was working on my master’s degree at New Mexico Highlands University, managing five counties in New Mexico in constituent services,” she said. “After that I worked at the state level working for both the house and senate along with Human Services as the marketing outreach coordinator for Insure New Mexico.”
Montoya said she also worked at the state treasurer’s office and that with today’s market financial experience is really going to count.
“I moved on to working at the county level and am now the County Treasurer in Sandoval County, a microcosm of District 3. We have villages, towns and pueblos, we have the Apaches and the Navajo Nations as well as the City of Rio Rancho in this county,” she said. “I am excited about many of the issues that are coming up now that we have found that we have not been ready for something as critical as the pandemic in the state.
She noted that she is one of the two people running that received the 20 percent at the State Democratic Convention allowing her to be placed on the ballot without having to collect signatures.
Marco Serna – Democrat
Serna said he is very proud to be district attorney currently and honored to serve Los Alamos in that capacity.
“I ran for district attorney because growing up – born and raised here in Northern New Mexico and growing up in Espanola – I saw the effects that the opioid epidemic was having on my community and our community and how destructive it’s been. As a young prosecutor I saw that we were doing it wrong and I wanted to treat people like people and ran on the platform of addressing the opioid epidemic with diversion programs and counseling rather than trying to jail our way out of it, because that’s the root of the issue,” Serna said. “I bring that same passion to race for Congress.
He said what really sets him apart from the other candidates is that he was the very first candidate when he announced his candidacy to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“I did that when it wasn’t popular at the time. The leadership in Washington didn’t want to go that route. I did that because I read the Mueller report and I sent it to the majority of the candidates here asking them to stand with me to say this man is wrong, what he’s doing is wrong, and we need to hold him accountable,” Serna said. “I say that because you want a leader who is willing to make that tough decision even when it’s not popular at the time.”
Serna said he is also the only candidate that he is aware of that has detailed position papers on issues that affect New Mexico and the nation.
“One of big issues early on was the Green New Deal. I think we all agree that the idea is a wonderful idea. We need to make sure that we protect our climate and that we take bold action, however I cannot support it as it stands right now because it doesn’t protect New Mexico’s economy. We have to make sure that we usher out fossil fuels and bring in green new technologies responsibly, much like our current governor and our legislature – they agree with me and I agree with them and they passed a bill two years ago which allows us 30 years to usher out that old technology and bring in the new technology,” he said. “We could be one of the lead producers of wind energy and solar. In our school systems, make sure that there’s curriculum available and programs available to encourage people to get into that line of work and find the long-term options also.”
Serna also mentioned the importance of veterans services and of taking care of veterans.
“I bring this sense of community to this race. I hope to earn your support,” he said.
Joseph Sanchez – Democrat
Sanchez noted that he was born and raised in the Espanola Valley and is a graduate of Espanola Valley High School. He said he has his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico as well as a master’s in business administration from New Mexico State University.
“I’m currently the state representative for District 40 in the legislature. I represent Mora, San Miguel, Colfax and Rio Arriba Counties. I’m currently the vice chair of the house appropriations and finance committee. We’re instrumental in creating the state’s budget,” Sanchez said. “I know that in June we’re going to have some hard decisions to make with everything that’s going on so I’ll be right in the middle of that.”
He said he has 20 years of experience at Los Alamos National Laboratory with eight of those years as an engineering manager where he oversaw over 15 engineers and designers for construction and infrastructure projects. He also served as CEO and general manager for Jemez Mountains Electric.
“They serve five counties, eight pueblos and two nations with over 30,000 customers, with over $100 million in assets,” Sanchez said.
He said his real strength is building relationships with people.
“I demonstrated to the legislature and they had the faith to make me the vice chair of the House Appropriations and Finance committee after just one year in office. Right now I’m in the middle of this huge thing we’re going to have to tackle,” he said.
Sanchez said he is also a board member of the United Way of Northern New Mexico covering Los Alamos County, Rio Arriba County and other parts of Northern New Mexico. He is also a former big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I’m just excited to be serving in the legislature and I see this as an opportunity just to help our communities. I’ve been talking from Day One about infrastructure, water projects, broadband projects. I’ve been talking about addiction, whether it’s alcoholism, opioids, heroin, those are all huge issues. I grew up and saw the issues in our communities first hand. I’ve seen relatives overdose, I’ve seen addiction first hand and I am running because I want to help our area,” Sanchez said. “As a 20-year veteran of Los Alamos National Laboratory, no one is going to be a greater champion for the Laboratory than myself. Los Alamos was created for the Laboratory and now it’s turned into a beautiful community with great people. I have a lot of friends there.”
Valerie Plame – Democrat
Plame said she comes from a family of public servants.
“My father was a career Air Force officer. He served in World War II. My mother was a public school teacher who taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades and my brother was a Marine in Vietnam. My family taught me the importance of public service, the power of a strong work ethic and perhaps most importantly to put country over politics,” she said. “So when the CIA recruited me I welcomed the chance to serve my country. My time in the CIA taught me that when we all work together we can solve the toughest problems and we all win.”
Plame said this has to be done moving forward as the country deals with the fallout from the pandemic.
“It’s rocked all of us to our core. It has challenged us on a global, national, local and very personal scale. It’s shed light on the inequities with our political, economic and social structures that we simply cannot ignore anymore. While this pandemic has been devastating, it does present us with an opportunity to perhaps reconstruct an economic system that is more sustainable, and more importantly perhaps, more equitable for all New Mexicans,” she said.
In the CIA, Plame said she served her country by protecting it from nuclear threats and she plans on serving New Mexico by ensuring “we are safe at home”.
“That means everyone must have good-paying jobs, access to healthcare, and a quality education, and be safe from threats abroad, pandemic and otherwise. Our economic recovery is going to be long and I’m going to fight every day to ensure a social safety net is up for those who need it the most, saving small businesses that make our community strong and getting people back to work with good-paying, family-supporting jobs,” she said. “This pandemic has shown just how interconnected our world is and that national security whether from terrorism or disease, has to be fought on every front.”
“We all love New Mexico. We love its diversity, its rich culture and its incredible beauty and these are the values that bind us together both as New Mexicans and Americans. We must stand up and fight back against the challenges ahead. I’m determined to return to Washington to fight on your behalf to serve and protect our community,” Plame said. “I stand here today as the only candidate that has fought a corrupt administration. My battle against the Bush and Cheney White House make me uniquely qualified to fight on your behalf to serve and protect our community. Specifically I was betrayed by our own government but I know I’m not alone. Many of us feel betrayed by our government these days.”
John Blair – Democrat
Blair said if he could leave people with one thing from the forum it would be that with all the country is facing right now, “we can’t afford to be electing someone to congress who’s going to be learning on the job.”
“Of the seven Democrats in this field, I am the only candidate who worked for President Obama, I am the only candidate with any Capitol Hill experience – I worked in the U.S. Senate for Jeff Bingaman, and in the House of Representatives for Martin Heinrich, I worked in every branch of state government and that experience matters,” Blair said.
He said he is a New Mexico native, born in Albuquerque and raised in Santa Fe. His parents both worked for the state of New Mexico – his dad at the Public Education Department and his mom with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.
“I’m running because the families I grew up with in Santa Fe, the families all across this district, are being left out by the disfunction of what’s happening in Washington. We’ve got Republicans who care more about NRA lobbyists than they do about kids getting shot in schools, We’ve got big pharma lining their pockets with billions of dollars while we’re still spending too much for prescription drugs and clawing our way out of this opioid epidemic,” he said. “And we have a president and Republicans who are pretending that the climate crisis doesn’t even exist. That’s ridiculous.”
Blair noted that he has had the privilege of being on the front lines for the last 25 years, fighting for New Mexicans and New Mexico values. He said he worked for President Obama in the Interior Department helping to fight climate change while the Obama administration invested billions of dollars in clean energy technology and fought the fossil fuel companies to make them reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions coming out of their plants.
“One of the best parts of my job was to help create a new national monument. My first month on the job, the President designated the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces as one of New Mexico’s newest national monuments. I worked for New Mexico Democrats like Jeff Bingaman who opposed the war in Iraq, and fought to protect federal land like the Valles Caldera. I worked with then Congressman Martin Heinrich who helped make it easier for Native Americans to buy homes on tribal land, he said.
Blair said most recently, he and his husband returned home to Santa Fe where he serves as Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s deputy secretary.
“That experience matters and to have the ability to actually get things done for this district, to bring resources and ideas and people together, matters,” he said.
Kyle Tisdel – Democrat
Tisdel said he is a public interest environmental attorney.
“ I spent my career working for people living in the shadows of fossil fuel exploitation but my most important job is I’m the father of three kids that are 8, 4 and 1 ½ and so I spend an awful amount of time thinking about their future and the world they’re going to inherit,” he said.
He noted that the reason that he got into the race is “not because he has built a career aspiring to become a politician or building relationships with wealthy donors or entire Democratic crowds”.
“It is because we are in the midst of a climate crisis and it is going to take profound action on behalf of the federal government and state government and nations all over the world to sufficiently deal with that crisis. I have spent my career as one of the top climate litigators in this country holding our federal government accountable to the science and timeline of the climate crisis,” Tisdel said. “Here in New Mexico, I’ve led the litigation to protect Chaco Canyon and the many communities that live in the shadow of that exploitation. I’ve protected Santa Fe National Forest from oil and gas leasing and over the course of my career I’ve protected millions of acres of land from fossil fuel extraction and development.”
He said that background and holding the federal government accountable and “fighting against the status and big oil and big coal and the process makes me uniquely qualified to take these interests on on behalf of New Mexico”.
“New Mexico has operated as an energy colony for big oil and gas for generations. Right now we’re seeing the collapse of the price of oil and gas. We see how foolish it is for our economy to be tied to extractive industry. That said, there is tremendous opportunity for us to lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow which includes the expansion of renewable resources throughout the state but it also includes things like taking a look at how we deal with the legacy of pollution and how we restore our public lands and with it create opportunities within our rural communities to bring additional resources and vibrance and prosperity to our rural communities,” Tisdel said.
Karen M. Badonie – Republican
Badonie was unable to attend the video conference call and moderator Ellen Mills read the following statement on Badonie’s behalf:
“Over the decades our (Navajo) reservation has been heavily deprived of amenities that most of the country takes for granted. The reason for this email is to reflect the fact that my place in the world has very limited and restricted technology that is not adequate to hold phone calls, stream conference calls and/or live streams. We have random G service with one or two bars at best. I cannot sustain smooth technology and wi-fi and satellite wi-fi is spotty at best. I usually would make the 1.5 to 2.5 hour trip off the reservation to a border town to hook into tech, however, we have now been subjected to even further restrictions for non-essential activity and I have been pulled over three times in our work truck thus far and instructed to stay at home unless essential work activity can be proven. I will not be able to Zoom or any other teleconferences and know that this unfortunate aspect is also the reason I am running. It is being used to injure my campaign by others. To overlook this disadvantage is to highlight the reason people are still living and are forgotten in New Mexico CD3. Let it be known my campaign is still strong and ready”
Harry Montoya – Republican
“I am a multi-generational native New Mexican, born and raised here in Northern New Mexico. I have been always pro-life, always pro-business, pro second amendment, and a constitutional conservative. I’m currently and have been a member for 25 years of the Knights of Columbus, the largest fraternal organization in the world. Our principals are charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism,” Montoya said. “Patriotism is certainly one of the things that I feel is needed at this time in our country in order to bring our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence back in focus for this whole country and for the world to note as well that we are a country that believes in these principals.”
He said like Bill Redmond, the last Republican to hold the Congressional District 2 seat, he is a former Democrat, “similar to Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump”.
“I walked away from the party that to me governs against the will of the people. They’re more in tune with serving the likes of Hollywood, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Because of that, I say I walked away but in a sense the party left me, I didn’t really leave the party,” Montoya said. “If we look at what I believe I was when I was a Democrat, I was a John F. Kennedy Democrat. John F. Kennedy would not be accepted in the Democrat Party in this day and age.”
“I am running as a Republican with those conservative values, traditional New Mexican values that we’ve held, with which I’ve been born and raised,” he said.
He noted that he has served on the Pojoaque Valley School Board, having been appointed and twice elected, and that he also served on the Santa Fe County Commission.
“These opportunities that I had to serve people here in North Central New Mexico I believe have given me the opportunity now to serve as your next congressman,” Montoya said.
Alexis M. Johnson – Republican
Johnson said she was born in Portales, raised in Roswell and lives with husband and four children in Santa Fe.
“I got into this race because I was seeing that the New Mexico of old has been subverted into a very far left regime. I say that because there in Santa Fe where I live, one day I went in to talk about gun rights at the Santa Fe New Mexican and everybody was opposed to the gun rights and whatnot so that is at the forefront of my campaign,” Johnson said. “I’m a very pro Second Amendment advocate and I support our U.S. Constitution even in crisis. I support the ability to carry a firearm as a woman to protect myself and also my children. I think that cannot be infringed upon by any type of red flag laws etc.”
She said the second reason she got into the race is because she is very pro-life.
“I had twins born between 30 and 31 weeks and they are healthy today and just beautiful children and to know that here in Albuquerque right now you can abort a baby in this crisis all the way up to 32 weeks is a travesty. I called the receptionist here in Albuquerque and inquired and they said you don’t have to have any emergency of the mother or the child. That was so foreign to me and so foreign to New Mexican traditional values that I hold. And those are the main reasons why I’m running,” Johnson said.
She noted that she believes in the constitution and she believes in New Mexican pride.
“I don’t think it is the government’s role to take that from the New Mexican. We have a very diverse culture and I know I’m the best candidate for this position because I’ve bring a very specific skills set and that is I’m an engineer, a problem solver and a negotiator. I’ve worked on the federal level in regards to negotiating business opportunities for New Mexicans and keeping New Mexicans employed,” she said. “And that’s why I’m running – to be the best advocate for the forgotten New Mexican and push jobs and prosperity.”
Angela Gale Morales – Republican
Morales said she is a mother of four children and has one granddaughter. She said she works for Rio Rancho Public Schools as a special education teacher.
“ I decided to do this because I am pro-life and I work with kids every day that have special needs and it hurts my heart to see those children not be allowed to be here, to be taken at 32 weeks and then if the mother signs a document then they can take the baby and do with it as they would like to. And often that’s organ donation and when I saw that case in California I couldn’t live with it,” she said.
Morales said she decided that someone needs to be the voice for people that can’t speak for themselves.
“I am a lifelong Republican. My grandmother said that her mom would be proud. I am an advocate for the school district. I am pro Second Amendment and pro Constitution and I am a write-in candidate so my name will not be on the ballot but if you would like to vote for me you can add it in,” she said.