Rep. Martin Heinrich (D)
New Mexico 1st District
New Mexico’s past and future come together in its single metropolis, Albuquerque. The city’s Spanish and Indian past is memorialized in its name (for a 17th-century Spanish nobleman) and in its age (founded in 1706) and in its quaint Old Town. But Albuquerque’s future is decidedly high-tech. For decades, the Sandia National Laboratories, Kirtland Air Force Base and the University of New Mexico have attracted scientists and engineers to Albuquerque and promoted private-sector technology growth. When rocket scientist Robert Goddard moved here in 1930 and nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer reconnoitered the site in 1940, Albuquerque was still a town of 35,000 at the junction of the Rio Grande River and old U.S. 66, which paralleled the Santa Fe Railroad. “A dirty, red sod-hut tortilla desert highway city,” novelist Tom Wolfe wrote. Now, metro Albuquerque, spreading out from Bernalillo County into Sandoval and Valencia counties, has more people (846,000 in 2008) than all of New Mexico did when the scientists first arrived. Bill Gates founded a little company called Microsoft here in 1975, although the software maker moved its 16 employees to Seattle in 1979. Intel now employs about 3,300 local residents in an advanced chip-making facility. The city’s prosperous neighborhoods have climbed the gently rising heights to the east; poorer residents have spread north and south along the Rio Grande. In the Old Town Plaza, some of the adobe buildings date to the 18th century. Hemmed in by the Sandia Mountains and by federal installations, growth is moving west and north, especially to the new town of Rio Rancho, home of the Intel plant and facilities for Sprint PCS and Victoria’s Secret. Despite its cold winters, Albuquerque is part of the Sun Belt. While Albuquerque has seen some growth in tourism—every October, it hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, which features many resident balloonists—it is heavily dependent on federal jobs.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of New Mexico includes Albuquerque and some of its suburbs. It is 45% Hispanic and takes in most of Bernalillo County and sparsely populated Torrance County in the desert. But the 1st does not include most of the big-growth suburbs of Corrales and Rio Rancho to the north in Sandoval County or Isleta and Las Lunas to the south in Valencia County. This has been one of the nation’s most competitive districts: It voted 51%-48% for John Kerry in 2004—Kerry visited Albuquerque six times during his campaign—but 60%-39% for Barack Obama in 2008. The district had elected a Republican to Congress since its creation in 1969, but the trend ended in 2008.
Rep. Martin Heinrich (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Oct. 17, 1971, Fallon, NV .
Education: U. of MO, B.S.E. 1995.
Family: Married (Julie); 2 children.
Elected office: Albuquerque City Cncl., 2004-07, Pres., 2006-07.
Professional Career: New Mexico National Resources Trustee
The new congressman from the 1st District is Democrat Martin Heinrich (HYN-rihk). He defeated Republican Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White after incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson gave up the seat to run for the Senate. Heinrich was born in Fallon, Nev., earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Missouri and moved to New Mexico in 1995. He founded a political consulting business and served as executive director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, which runs adventure programs in the Southwest. In 2003, he was elected to the Albuquerque City Council. His signature issue was increasing New Mexico’s minimum wage, and Heinrich worked with the city’s business leaders and community activists to produce compromise legislation mandating a gradual increase. It passed in 2006. He also lobbied for federal protection of the Ojito Wilderness, and Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson appointed him the state’s national resources trustee in 2006.
|Martin Heinrich (D)||166,271||(56%)||($2,481,040)|
|Darren White (R)||132,485||(44%)||($1,778,319)|
|Martin Heinrich (D)||22,341||(44%)|
|Rebecca Vigil-Giron (D)||12,660||(25%)|
|Michelle Grisham (D)||12,074||(24%)|
|Robert Pidcock (D)||4,273||(8%)|
Encouraged by Richardson, Heinrich announced that he would challenge Wilson in 2008. National Democrats backed Heinrich’s candidacy from the start, and he defeated three other hopefuls in the June 3 primary, including former New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. In October 2007, Wilson announced her intention to relinquish the seat to run for the Senate. Republicans fielded a strong replacement candidate in Darren White, who has had a long career in New Mexico politics, including two terms as sheriff of Bernalillo County, and early polls showed he had better name recognition than Heinrich.
But Heinrich made steady gains. He tied White to the unpopular incumbent president by reminding voters that White had served as President George W. Bush’s Bernalillo County re-election chairman in 2004. White in turn questioned Heinrich’s business practices, saying he had been paid by nonprofit groups for advocacy work without first registering as a lobbyist. Heinrich had worked as a political consultant for the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness from 2002 to 2005 and lobbied on its behalf. During the campaign, he maintained that the law had not required him to register as a federal or state lobbyist. The campaign took an especially negative turn in the final weeks. Heinrich’s campaign ran an ad featuring a group of New Mexico state police officers’ wives who in 1996 accused White of policies they claimed compromised their husbands’ safety. White’s campaign hit back with an ad in which the mother of a slain Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy referred to Heinrich as “despicable.”
Late polls showed a close race. But Heinrich defeated White 56% to 44%, carrying three of the district’s five counties. He crushed White by 33,786 votes in populous Bernalillo County, which Wilson had lost by a mere 1,250 votes in 2006. Heinrich’s surprisingly large victory can be attributed in part to money. White was not nearly as good a fundraiser as Wilson, who spent nearly $5 million to defend the seat in 2006. Heinrich outraised White $2.5 million to $1.8 million, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured $2 million into the race. The cash-strapped National Republican Congressional Committee ignored it. Heinrich was also helped by the Democratic wave that swept through New Mexico in 2008. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama defeated Republican nominee John McCain 57% to 42%, in a state where the two previous presidential elections had been decided by a percentage point or less. In other contests, Democrat Tom Udall snatched a Senate seat from the Republicans, that of the retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, and New Mexico’s two other House seats were secured by non-incumbent Democrats.
Before arriving in Washington, Heinrich had already generated some inside-the-industry buzz. A poll conducted by the website Politics1.com named the handsome Heinrich the “Hottest Man in Politics,” ahead of such well-known political heartthrobs as Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. Once in the House, Heinrich got seats on the Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, where he is focusing on legislation to make the country energy independent.