Santa Fe lawyer to enter race for Luján’s House seat

Teresa Leger

Santa Fe lawyer Teresa Leger is preparing to jump into the Democratic primary for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján’s seat in Congress.

Leger filed a declaration of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission earlier this week and, in a letter on Friday, told members of the state party’s central committee she would soon launch her campaign.

“As your next Congresswoman, I will embody and give voice to New Mexico’s values of multicultural understanding; our love for a land that must be protected from the ravages of climate change; and our need for a comprehensive healthcare system that works,” she wrote.

Luján announced this month he will forgo another term in the House, where he recently was named assistant speaker, to run for the U.S. Senate seat Tom Udall is giving up next year.

In turn, he threw into gear what could turn into a crowded race to succeed him in the reliably Democratic 3rd Congressional District, which spans from the Four Corners to Portales.

With her move this week, Leger stands to bring into the race what could be a formidable fundraising network and a prominent name in Northern New Mexico politics.

Leger is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford University Law School. She went on to join the Nordhaus Law Firm before establishing her own firm. She may be best known for representing tribes as well as tribal enterprises. She also worked on a lawsuit against the city of Santa Fe that eventually forced it to embrace ranked-choice voting a decade after voters had approved the election method.

Leger was a White House Fellow during the Clinton administration, serving as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And she sat on the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation during the Obama administration.

In the House race, Leger would join a handful of other candidates for the Democratic nomination, with freshman state Rep. Joseph Sanchez perhaps best known among them.

The names of several other potential candidates, including District Attorney Marco Serna, are swirling in the gyre of Northern New Mexico Democratic politics.

One has taken herself out of contention.

Santa Fe City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said Friday she will not run for the seat.

The race likely will be a sprawling one, and a winning candidate probably will need to bring in his or her own money. Democratic donors at the national level likely will be most focused on protecting vulnerable districts, which the 3rd Congressional District decidedly is not — at least not now, with 51 percent of voters registered as Democrats and only 27 percent registered as Republicans.

A candidate with his or her own network of donors beyond New Mexico — such as college classmates and business associates — likely will have a fundraising edge.

Only one Republican has filed to run for the party’s nomination in the district: Brett Kokinadis, a Santa Fe resident who recently was registered as a Democrat.