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.

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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.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

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(8) comments

Stefanie Beninato

I saw lots of fund raisers for Leger that if you could not donate you were not invited and very few open to the public events.

Also she had been endorsed by many current and former politicos which gives me pause. Serna should definitely drop out--he was a poor choice as DA and only got it because of his family's political connections. For those with less than five percent--do you really see a "clear path" to possible victory or is it ego?

Khal Spencer

Leger Fernandez has deep roots in the 3CD and although she is too liberal for me on a few issues, I agree with the convention folks that she is the strongest candidate. Serna is a failed prosecutor. Plame's claim is she knows DC but does she really represent the district? Being a CIA employee who can drive backwards is not the same as being a House member. I liked Sanchez's positions as of a couple years ago when he was interviewed by the Journal and that he is actually a technical person (electrical engineer) rather than yet another lawyer in a House festooned with lawyers, but he is way back in the field. Given the number of technical issues we face (pandemics, climate change, the electrical grid needing overhaul to make use of renewables) I'd vote for him.

Oh, well.

Dr. Michael Johnson

A lot of us will vote for Joe Khal, just not the rich, elite activists who were allowed at the convention. The rural part of NM has a voice and will speak more loudly than the kind of people at the convention, I hope, otherwise we will get a poor candidate in Leger.

Richard Reinders

I am afraid the rural voice was silent when it came to Carl Trujillo, and especially against the likes of Andrea Romero a known IMO crook. Hopefully the rural voter see the error in not showing up and voting for Carl and do the right thing moving forward.

Khal Spencer

The gerrymandering of that district didn't help.

Dr. Michael Johnson

A good review of the broken, dysfunction political system we have that runs our elections. Party bosses and elites pick the people we can vote for, the people's voices are silenced or relegated to "noise", as Milan says, this was Leger's convention. So this is all that matters, and the people can only chose who the party bosses, elites, and activists dictate to us, disgusting. Is it any wonder we get extremes of the political spectrum, personality, rather than qualification based candidates, and thus our government has more and more incompetents running it.

Lynn Rosen

It's amazing that anyone would categorize Teresa Leger Fernandez as a party elite. This campaign is her first foray into politics! She’s been an actively working lawyer doing good for each of her under-represented clients, benefitting all New Mexicans through policies that resulted. She wasn’t chosen by the party bosses/elites/activists. In fact there are SFCoDem elites who scoffed at her entrance into the race. So much for your "party bosses/elites" argument. It’s easy to see why she won the delegate election so thoroughly--- the range of her experiences, her on-the-ground knowledge and awareness of New Mexicans’ needs, the big turnout throughout our district. Her campaign is the grassiest of grass roots organizing. That’s how she got 42% of the delegate vote. Nothing elite about that at all.

That outcome for Leger Fernandez wasn't because of "party elites/bosses". It was a result of butt-kicking hard work by her well organized team and the hundreds of volunteers who have been working for her since she announced her candidacy. We volunteers hosted house parties to introduce her to friends and raise funding. We swarmed CD-3 getting petitions signed in order to get her qualified to run as a candidate. We called friends in every ward they lived in, urging them to run as a delegate or show up at their ward meeting to vote. We are volunteers---not one of us was paid to get signatures or get out the ward vote. Everything we volunteers have done is because of our friendships with Leger Fernandez and our belief in her vast experiences benefiting New Mexicans.

The outcome at Buffalo Thunder was the voice of the people speaking. We volunteers and supporters will continue advocating for her til she wins the June 2 primary and November 3 election. Because a vote for Leger Fernandez is a vote for us---the regular people of New Mexico.

Dr. Michael Johnson

I rest my case your honor........

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