Plame From District 3

Former Cia Agent Seeks Nm Dem Nod

August March
8 min read
Plame From District 3
Valerie Plame (Courtesy Plame for Congress)
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Attention citizens of New Mexico Congressional District 3—that means you in Corrales and Rio Rancho—that’s right, put down that saddle hitch or that slice of New York style pie and listen up.

Noted Santa Fe resident, author and former CIA operative Valerie Plame wants to be your next Congresswoman. She’s been living here in New Mexico since the mid-aughts. After surviving a politically motivated outing and a subsequent scandal involving her husband and a very naughty Republican party—you notice we said naughty; they weren’t quite evil back then, not by Trumpian standards anyway—that was determined to sink the Plames’ careers.

Santa Fe must have seemed like a breath of high desert mountain air back then for Plame, who settled in Santa Fe and raised a family there. She also divorced her husband, wrote a couple of very interesting spy novels and has worked on local issues with the United Way, becoming a community leader in the process.

Recently, Plame decided she wanted to return to a life of public service. She launched an insurgent campaign to be the one chosen to take up where longtime US Representative Ben Ray Lujan—now seeking to fill the shoes of a retiring Senator Tom Udall—left off.

It’s a big field with at least five legitimate Democratic candidates set to battle it out in the state’s primary election on June 2. Plame, a transplant, has had to endure plenty of guff from some who see the seat as intrinsically New Mexican, to be held by a native son or daughter of the Democratic persuasion in perpetuity. Then, there are the controversial comments that the candidate made back in the before time. Oh, and the fact that her campaign war chest is stuffed full of big guns, mostly money from out-of-state supporters like teevee star Bryan Cranston.

Besides all of that, Plame is eloquent, intelligent, well-educated and up to date on New Mexican issues. To get the scoop on the whys and wherefore of an unlikely but substantial candidate,
Weekly Alibi met with Valerie Plame on Monday morning.

Weekly Alibi: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet. I wanted to talk to you about your congressional campaign.

Valerie Plame: Absolutely. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

And to you as well. It’s a holiday for some, I hear. In journalism and politics, there aren’t a lot of days off, especially going into this election. Tell me about the hows and whys of your decision to run for Congress in District 3.

I am running for District 3 because it presents me with an opportunity to again serve my country. As you know, I was a covert operations CIA officer. I loved it, loved that career. It ended before I was ready to let that go. And this is my home and I believe I have the skills and experience and the background to really serve my community and New Mexico. I’ll be able to make a difference from day one.

When did you decide to make New Mexico your home?

I was born on an Air Force Base in Alaska. My dad was an Air Force officer. I moved around a lot with my family. I moved around a lot with my CIA career. I had seen the beauty of northern New Mexico when I came out and worked on very top secret programs at Los Alamos National Laboratories. When it became clear that my family wanted to leave Washington, DC, in the wake of that whole crazy political scandal concerning the outing of CIA identity, the only place I wanted to come was New Mexico. My children were small at the time and I wanted them to be exposed to the incredible beauty and cultural diversity and the richness that is always here. We all consider this our home.

What would you seek to accomplish as the US Representative from District 3?

It’s not what I think is important as I travel around the district, which, as you know, is enormous. I listen with respect to each and every community. When I ask what it is citizens want from their next Congresswoman, that’s where the answers are. By and large, no matter what the community is, there are three areas that matter to everyone. Those are the environment, education and employment. And I know those are big. But I also know those are three ways of thinking about the issues that everyone puts out there. In terms of environment, I am a supporter of the Green New Deal. Obviously, New Mexico is too heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry. We need to diversify our economy. I would love to see New Mexico at the forefront of renewables technology. I think we could do that.

I keep bringing a similar issue up. We’re funding our state, particularly education and education reform, with petro dollars.

That’s correct.

With all this talk about sustainability, how can we realistically make the transition? I know a lot of your constituents in northwest New Mexico rely on oil and gas jobs to stay in the middle class.

So, the oil and gas gushing out of New Mexico—in the Permian Basin and the Northwest—is giving a gift to us all, to the rest of the state. It’s buying us time, frankly, as we make this transition. We know it’s not going to last. I was just up in Farmington, where you know, the Energy Transition Act is a controversial piece of legislation. But just like the Green New Deal, it’s aspirational. There’s no reason New Mexico can’t reach this potential.

Another issue that New Mexico faces is endemic poverty. Progressive leaders say that root causes need to be addressed to solve this long standing problem. If elected, do you plan to work in that same direction?

Absolutely. I was in Española recently and now I know how that community has been decimated by the opioid crisis. We need to take a holistic approach. Right now, treatment options aren’t standardized and people don’t get the help they need. We have to reinvigorate the state’s behavioral health system. I know Congress can help with money, but more is needed here. It’s how that money is spent, hopefully on treatment that goes to root causes.

We’re also still struggling to educate New Mexican children. Discuss.

August, education is absolutely crucial. I believe that education is the foundation on which you build a thriving community. Early childhood education is important, but so is higher education. We really need to focus our resources on education and it will be interesting to see how that concept plays out in this year’s legislative session.

What are your thoughts on climate change?

Typically, Americans are not very good at longer-term planning. But with climate change, we must be. I was just speaking to Carol Romero-Wirth at the Woman’s March in Santa Fe. She’s a City Councilor that did a lot of work on the Santa Fe water pipeline. The point of that is that she is looking out 75 years for outcomes. We need to start doing that, too.

Your experience with geopolitical matters adds some gravity to your candidacy for national office. Any thoughts on the current world situation?

On the whole issue of Iran, I found the targeted killing of General Suleimani was an attempt by Trump to divert attention from the impeachment proceedings. On the other hand, it was an attempt to make him into a quote “wartime president” to bolster his reelection chances. His claim that there was an imminent threat has been undercut left and right. Unfortunately, I had a front row seat for what happened in 2003, when we were last lied to about a war by a Republican. I think another war in the Middle East would be catastrophic.

I noticed that you’ve ridden into a bit of a storm here in New Mexico. Any comment on those controversies that you recently weathered, that whole allegedly anti-Semitic ramble?

I made a terrible mistake for which I’ve apologized numerous times, publicly and privately. I was deeply humiliated. It’s not who I am. It’s not what I believe. It was a painful experience that heightened my sense of responsibility. I hope citizens judge me on my words and deeds going forward.

I get it. Why should you be the next US Representative from District 3 in New Mexico?

I would be honored to be given that responsibility because I have the ability, the background and the skill set to serve with integrity from day one. And I want to be able to my country as a representative of my home, New Mexico.

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong date for New Mexico’s 2020 primary election. The election is on June 2. Weekly Alibi regrets the error.
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