Dominici, Richardson Stir Up New Mexico Politics
ALEX COHEN, host:
There are, of course, other reasons why legislatures leave office. Earlier this year, New Mexico Senator Pete Dominici announced that he was suffering from an incurable brain disease and that he would not be running for office again in 2008. The implications of his departure are huge for the state.
Here now to explain is Joe Monahan. He runs a blog about politics in New Mexico.
Welcome to the program.
Mr. JOE MONAHAN (Blogger): Well, thank you for having me.
COHEN: So as of now, who is hoping to replace Senator Domenici?
Mr. MONAHAN: Well, we have the mayor of Albuquerque and three United States House of Representatives members. In fact, all of our U.S. House members are hoping to replace Senator Domenici, which makes for somewhat of an unprecedented political landscape here.
COHEN: And that's because those candidates who already have jobs in the House, they can't run for office both in the House and the Senate. So what might happen then to their current position?
Mr. MONAHAN: Well, we have a scramble on to fill the three U.S. House seats as well as the U.S. Senate seat. So you can imagine the political chessboard here is just crazy with all kinds of moves.
COHEN: And can you give us a brief rundown about these players - the mayor and the people who are currently in the House - who are they and what are they all about?
Mr. MONAHAN: Well, in Albuquerque the representative is Republican Heather Wilson, who's been there for 10 years. She is somewhat of a protégé of Senator Domenici, who set all of this off by retiring. Up north, Congressman Tom Udall is a Democrat who has a national profile because of his famous family - the Udalls. And down south the congressman is a Republican, Steve Pearce, who is from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Pearce and Wilson are vying for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Congressman Udall and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, another Democrat, are vying for the Democratic nomination for the right to replace Domenici.
COHEN: So how might the numbers fall in terms of the two parties depending on the outcome of this election?
Mr. MONAHAN: Well, right now we have two Republican representatives and one Democratic. And it's hard to see which way it will fall, because we do have open seats, and the dynamic changes, and it really is a free-for-all.
We do think that the Senate seat may lean Democratic in terms of statewide registration in the current political landscape. But this is going to be a long campaign, hard fought, and a very high profile campaign. Washington and the national parties are going to be involved in this thing. So I think that while the Democrats do start with an edge for the Senate seat, by no means are the Republicans throwing in the towel here.
COHEN: How are New Mexicans feeling about all this? Is this an exciting time of change or is it little frightening with all this chaos?
Mr. MONAHAN: Well, I think there's a little bit of both. I mean, we've had some lay-offs here at the national laboratories, which are contingent on funding from Washington and therefore the strength of our congressional delegation. That is worrisome. And a small state like New Mexico depends on seniority in the United States Congress.
In fact, in the Senate, when you look at Senator Domenici and Senator Bingaman, that is the most senior United States Senate delegation among the 50 states right now. That's a big deal for a small state which per capita receives more federal funding than any other state - so that is a concern.
On the other hand, it's a chance to get some new positioning, if not completely new faces. So in those terms it's exciting that we might have some renewed, you know, enthusiasm for these positions in Washington.
COHEN: Political blogger Joe Monahan joined us from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thank you so much.
Mr. MONAHAN: Thank you.
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