Brakes on a Plame

Ex-CIA operative and prominent anti-Semite defeated in congressional primary

Valerie Plame
Valerie Plame / Getty Images
June 3, 2020

Valerie Plame's congressional bid came to an end on Tuesday when the former CIA operative, who has battled accusations of anti-Semitism and carpet bagging, was defeated in a Democratic primary.

Plame finished second in a field of seven candidates battling to replace outgoing congressman Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M.), who is running for Senate. Local attorney and activist Teresa Leger Fernandez won the race with 42.6 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Plame's 23.1 percent total as the AP called the race early Wednesday morning.

Plame was the only candidate in the race with a national political profile. Her campaign launch video played up her career as a CIA agent and falsely accused former George W. Bush official Scooter Libby of blowing her cover.

Having decamped to New Mexico from Washington, D.C. in 2006, Plame battled accusations of carpet bagging. It did not help that her campaign was fueled predominantly by out-of-state donors, including several Hollywood celebrities and the Holocaust denier Pete McCloskey. Ultimately, roughly 89 percent of her contributions came from outside New Mexico, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Prior to her congressional run, Plame made national headlines in 2017 when she shared on Twitter an article from a discredited anti-Semitic website arguing that "America's Jews are driving America's wars." The story she shared, from Unz Review, asked, "Shouldn't [American Jews] recuse themselves when dealing with the Middle East?"

After urging critics to read to the end of the article, she ultimately apologized, saying that she was in the midst of a move and had merely "skimmed" the piece herself.

A spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition, Neil Strauss, celebrated Plame's defeat but expressed concern that Democratic leadership "supported an anti-Semite."

"Valerie Plame has frequently trafficked in and promoted anti-Semitic messages. The fact that prominent Democrats and celebrities, Chuck Schumer chief among them, chose to support her in a crowded field shows that Democrats aren't committed to combating left wing anti-Semitism," Strauss told the Washington Free Beacon.

The Plame campaign received multiple donations, totaling $1,550, from McCloskey, a former California congressman, who has referred to the Nazi murder of six million European Jews as the "so-called Holocaust."

Both Plame and Leger Hernandez enjoyed the the backing of big-spending outside groups. VoteVets, a liberal group largely funded by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) Senate Majority PAC, endorsed Plame, while Legar Fernandez received endorsements from a number of prominent liberal groups including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Leger Fernandez is favored to win the general election in November. The third district has not sent a Republican to Washington since 1997, and Luján won his 2018 race by nearly 30 points.