Over nearly 40 years as a senior member on personal, committee and leadership staffs in the U.S. House of Representatives, I developed a pretty strong sense of what it takes to serve as an advocate for constituents and an effective and respected leader on national policy questions.
Teresa Leger Fernandez has those qualities in prodigious amounts, and that is why I am so certain she is the right person to represent the 3rd Congressional District of New Mexico in the House.
Most candidates — especially first-time candidates — bring passion to their campaign, and that energy, together with vision and even idealism, is needed to justify seeking office. But vision, fame or even experience is not enough to effectively serve the community. Success requires a deep knowledge of the people whom you serve, their histories, their struggles, their perspectives and their aspirations.
Teresa blends that deep, personal understanding of the people of the 3rd Congressional District, and of New Mexico, with the years of professional and volunteer experience needed to have an immediate impact in Congress. Teresa has been creating coalitions supporting common cause for years: advocating and fighting effectively for her law clients, for the environment, for immigrants and for Native people. She knows how to seek common ground but she also has demonstrated the resolve, as my former boss House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would often say, to stand her ground when necessary.
In the current, poisonously divided political arena, we need people like Teresa who know this community and can be its effective advocate. That is the unique role of the representatives in our political system: a local person who understands the local community and has the skills to fight for them in Washington, D.C. This is surely no time for those who lack the kind of experience Teresa brings to this campaign: a daughter of Las Vegas, N.M., who began in Head Start and achieved success at the country’s leading universities, who was selected by two presidents — Clinton and Obama — to serve in positions of great responsibility, but also a New Mexican who came home to fight for affordable housing, for a compassionate immigration policy, for energy renewability, for Native peoples’ water rights and for the right of every citizen to vote.
Teresa would immediately play a valued role, filling the seat of the Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján with another respected and talented leader committed to being part of the solution. People who analyze candidates and who work with officeholders over many years appreciate those few who possess that special talent. I have written a new book that examines the impact of incoming, principled members of the House, and I recognize how many qualities of the great leaders of that class Teresa embodies. That is why Emily’s List, the national organization advocating the election of women to public office, has endorsed Teresa, and it is why I also am supporting her for Congress in New Mexico 3.
John A. Lawrence, Ph.D., is a part-time resident of Santa Fe and a professor at the University of California, Washington Center.