What if you had a political nominating convention where every candidate refused to accept defeat?
It could happen in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, where a clear favorite has emerged but still might not dispatch any of her six rivals before the Democratic primary election in June.
Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez was the runaway leader in delegates at the Democrats’ nominating convention this weekend. She took almost 42 percent in an eye-popping performance.
Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya was the only other candidate to make the ballot. She just cleared the 20 percent threshold necessary to qualify.
The remaining five candidates can either wave a white flag of surrender or submit petition signatures in hopes of making the ballot.
With this system of second chances, odds are good that all seven candidates will stay alive until the primary election.
Valerie Plame, once a spy with the CIA and the only nationally known candidate in the race, has led in raising money. Plame, of Santa Fe, has bagged more than $1.1 million in donations, but she received only 5 percent of the delegates.
She says she’s going to stay in the race.
Environmental attorney Kyle Tisdale and John Blair, a former New Mexico deputy secretary of state, had delegate totals lower than Plame’s. They also said they wouldn’t quit.
“There’s absolutely a path to victory,” Blair said an hour before learning he had received but 4.5 percent of the delegate votes.
Tisdale gave the day’s most cogent speech, focusing on the encroaching danger of climate change. Nonetheless, he came away with just 2.4 percent of the delegates, the lowest total.
“I didn’t aspire to be a politician,” Tisdale said after leaving the lectern. “There’s urgency. We’ve got maybe 10 years left” to reverse a pattern of destructive hotter temperatures.
The other two candidates, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Santa Fe-area District Attorney Marco Serna, would shock their backers if they gave up.
Serna received 13.4 percent of the delegates and Sanchez had 12.2 percent.
Serna played “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge as he took the stage for his speech. The song was the theme of the Pittsburgh Pirates when they mounted an improbable comeback to win the 1979 World Series.
But Serna’s chances of rallying like those Buccos of old aren’t good. His record as a prosecutor will be more of an issue than ever if he petitions onto the congressional primary ballot.
A man who was charged with murder in the shooting of a 67-year-old librarian walked free after a judge ruled that Serna’s staff failed to meet speedy trial rules.
Serna’s staff lost another case in which a man who’d had a shot of liquor and two beers veered into the wrong lane of traffic and plowed his pickup into a BMW driven by a 74-year-old woman. The man fled, but police caught him hiding his smashed truck behind a business in Española.
The facts should have led to a win for prosecutor Serna. Instead, the defendant walked free because a judge said Serna’s staff failed to meet deadlines on discovery of evidence.
As for Sanchez, he has been a state lawmaker for less than two years. He began his congressional campaign soon after completing his first session in the statehouse.
With her strong showing at the convention, Leger Fernandez might be impossible to derail. The rest want to believe a different outcome is possible.
If six other candidates are on the ballot, votes could splinter in odd ways. Those who failed at the convention are capable of envisioning themselves sneaking through a seven-way primary.
A packed ballot might be the best hope for Plame. She thinks she can right her underwhelming showing at the convention when the full complement of Democratic voters gets its say.
Leger Fernandez told me before the delegate votes were counted that she might get 35 percent or even 40 percent. She underestimated her popularity.
Her show of strength could be the harbinger of an easy primary win similar to the one in 2018 by now-Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
For now, though, all that Leger Fernandez has locked up is the top position on the ballot.
But there’s no denying that this was her convention. She towered over it like Casey did Mudville.
The 3rd District hasn’t been won yet. What’s clear is it’s been spoken for — loudly.