Friday, December 8, 2006

NM '08 Senate Analysis

Sen. Pete Domenici was re-elected in 2002 with 65% of the vote and spent $4,144,286 to do it. He was first elected in 1972. By 2008, he will have served 36 years. Should he run for re-election, he would be highly favored to win another term.

However, rumors are circulating that he will retire. These rumors are likely true. Domenici is losing the Chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Given his diminished leadership capacity in the new Senate, he may want to enjoy retirement with his wife, eight children, and probably dozens of grandchildren.

If predictions of his retirement are correct, this is another prime pick-up for Democrats. New Mexico has become increasingly Democratic under Gov. Bill Richardson. Statewide, Democrats hold the offices of Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Attorney General, and one U.S. Senate Seat.

This year, Gov. Richardson and U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman were re-elected with 69% and 71%, respectively. Democrats also have a healthy majority in both chambers of the Legislature.

Democrats hold only one of the State's three Congressional seats. Republican Heather Wilson, of NM's First District won re-election by less then 900 votes. She will likely face another stiff challenge in 2008.

Should Gov. Richardson fore go a Presidential run and instead opt for a Senate campaign, this seat is his for the taking. He is highly popular in New Mexico and would be a shoo-in. He would be an immediately effective member of the Senate, having served in the U.S. House, as Secretary of Energy, and as U.N. Ambassador. Service in the Senate would further his Presidential ambitions.

If Richardson chooses not to run, the most likely candidate would be Congressman Tom Udall. He has faced token opposition for his seat in Congress over the past few cycles and has $737,280 in his campaign account, which could all be transferred to a Senate campaign, giving him a big head start.

Either way, Domenici's retirement means the Dems will likely pick this Senate seat.