Sen. Mark Udall (D)
Elected: 2008, term expires 2014, 1st term.
Born: July 18, 1950, Tucson, AZ .
Education: Williams Col., B.A. 1972.
Religion: no religious affiliation.
Family: Married (Maggie L. Fox); 2 children.
Elected office: CO House of Reps., 1996-98; U.S. House of Reps., 1998-2008.
Professional Career: CO Outward Bound course dir., 1975-85, exec. dir., 1985-95.
Mark Udall, Colorado’s senior senator, is a Democrat first elected to the House in 1998 and to the Senate in 2008. Udall grew up in Tucson, Ariz., in a family with deep political roots in the West. His grandfather, Levi Stewart Udall, a Republican, was a justice on Arizona’s Supreme Court from 1947 to 1960. An uncle, Democrat Stewart Udall, was the representative from the Tucson district from 1955 to 1961 and then secretary of the Interior for eight years. Stewart was succeeded in the House by Morris Udall, Mark’s father, who served from 1961 until 1991. He was the longtime Democratic chairman of the Interior Committee and an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1976. As a child, Mark listened in on living room conversations between his father and prominent political figures like Robert Kennedy and Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. In Tucson, the two Udall brothers lived a bike-ride apart, and young Mark used to ride over to see Stewart’s son, cousin Tom Udall, who was elected to the Senate from New Mexico in 2008. Mark Udall says he and his cousin have been as close as brothers throughout their lives.
|Mark Udall (D)||1,230,994||(53%)||($12,987,562)|
|Bob Schaffer (R)||990,755||(42%)||($7,205,644)|
|Douglas Campbell (CNP)||59,733||(3%)||($124,876)|
|Bob Kinsey (Green)||50,004||(2%)|
|Mark Udall (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 House (68%), 2004 House (67%), 2002 House (60%), 2000 House (55%), 1998 House (50%)
Udall graduated from Williams College in 1972. The same year, he was arrested for possession of marijuana, and after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, moved to Boulder, Colo., where he worked for the Colorado Outward Bound School and became an accomplished mountaineer. He has climbed Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, and Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world, and he has scaled the north face, though he did not reach the top, of Mount Everest. He was executive director of the school from 1985 to 1995. In 1996, Udall ran for the state House and with his family’s connections raised 40% of his money out of state and won. When 2nd District Democratic Rep. David Skaggs retired in 1998, Udall ran for his seat against Republican Bob Greenlee, the mayor of Boulder. Udall stressed environmental protection, growth management, and education. Greenlee was popular in usually Democratic Boulder. But Udall won Boulder, and he defeated Greenlee 50%-47%.
In the House, Udall compiled a mostly liberal voting record. On environmental issues, he opposed allowing states to designate roads in wilderness areas, but dismayed some local environmental groups by supporting cutbacks in forests to combat infestation by bark beetles and to reduce the threat of wildfires. He worked with Republican Sen. Wayne Allard on a bipartisan project to convert the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility in Colorado into a wildlife refuge. In 2004, he championed Colorado’s Amendment 37, which imposed a renewable-energy standard on the state, and he helped persuade the U.S. House to pass renewable-energy standards in 2007 energy legislation.
Udall served on the House Armed Services Committee and voted against the Iraq war resolution in October 2002, citing his father’s regret over supporting the Tonkin Gulf resolution in 1964. He later voted against $87 billion in funding for the war. In 2005, he led House efforts to seek a redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq. But by May 2007, he had softened his anti-war stance somewhat, voting in favor of funding for the war and against an amendment that called for troops to be withdrawn within 180 days. “I’m not going to play chicken when it comes to the needs of the soldiers on the ground. . . . We rushed into this war, and we need to withdraw in a phased fashion so we don’t leave the Middle East aflame,” he told The Denver Post. In response, anti-war protesters stormed his Washington office and were arrested. His analysis changed as events did. In 2007, he called President Bush’s increase in troop strength in Iraq “a tragic mistake,” while on the television news program Meet the Press in September 2008, he said, “The surge has helped. There are other factors in Iraq that have been helpful.”
Udall was often mentioned as a contender for statewide office. In 2003, he declined to challenge Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, but the following year, when Campbell suddenly announced he would retire, Udall entered the race. Within 24 hours, however, under pressure from Democrats who thought they needed a more moderate candidate, Udall dropped out and endorsed state Attorney General Ken Salazar, who went on to win the Senate seat in 2004. But Udall made it clear he would run for the Senate seat up in 2008, when Republican Sen. Wayne Allard would be at the end of the two terms he had said he would serve.
Udall was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Former Rep. Scott McInnis, considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination, dropped out of the race, which cleared the way for former Rep. Bob Schaffer, who retired from the House in 2002w in line with his pledge to serve only three terms. In 2004, Schaffer ran for the Senate and lost the nomination to beer-company executive Pete Coors. So, two candidates who were passed over in the 2004 Senate race faced each other in 2008.
There was fairly sharp contrast between the candidates’ views, underlined by their political rhetoric. Republicans constantly referred to Udall as a “Boulder liberal,” while Democrats referred to Schaffer as “Big Oil Bob.” Udall emphasized his support of renewable-energy sources, but said he also supported clean-coal development and nuclear power. In July 2008, he came out for allowing additional forms of recreation beyond skiing, including mountain biking and concerts, in ski-permit areas on U.S. Forest Service land. Schaffer, who had earlier in his career attacked conservation programs as infringement on property rights, cited his work after he left Congress on seismic technology, and said he supported renewable-energy sources. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran an ad criticizing Schaffer for supporting tax breaks for energy companies and then subsequently earning $800,000 as an oil-company executive.
In May 2008, gas prices hit $4 a gallon, and public opinion shifted in favor of offshore oil drilling. Schaffer attacked Udall for his long opposition to offshore drilling. In August, as Congress was about to adjourn, Udall cast one of the last votes for the Democratic leadership’s move to adjourn without, as Republicans demanded, voting on offshore drilling. Then in mid-August he switched and supported proposals for offshore and more domestic drilling, a move that Schaffer derided as a “fig leaf,” according to The Denver Post.
When the crisis in the financial markets came to a head in September 2008, Schaffer told The Denver Post it was “largely the creation of Congress” and called the proposed $700 billion government bailout of big, private financial institutions “a tragic response to an even greater tragedy.” Udall said the crisis was “the Reagan revolution coming to its logical conclusion” and said the bailout was a necessary step.
Udall won 53%-42%, while Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was carrying the state 54%-45%. Schaffer ran well ahead in Colorado Springs, in exurban Douglas County and the eastern plains, and also in mining areas on the Western Slope. But Udall carried the other Denver suburbs by impressive margins, and his big margins in ski resort areas and Pueblo enabled him to carry the 3rd Congressional District, something many Democrats feared impossible. It was the widest margin for a Democrat in a Colorado Senate race since Gary Hart’s victory in 1974.
So Mark Udall joined cousin Tom in the Senate. Another cousin, with whom they were on good terms, Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, was defeated for re-election. The two Udalls continued to work out in the gym together. Mark Udall told the newspaper Politico that he would bring his Outward Bound spirit to his work in the Senate. He said, “I think what I brought was the sense that you have when you’re on the mountain, when you’re all tied together on a rope, that you don’t cut the rope, you don’t leave people behind. . . . So I think my attitude is, everybody with whom you’re working, assume they’re always going to be a part of your team. Clear the air when necessary, find what things that you have in common and then keep trying to reach the goal together.” Udall and new Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Democrat, were part of the Gang of 20 that negotiated the Senate version of the economic stimulus bill in February 2009. That month, Udall also became chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s National Parks Subcommittee.
When home-state colleague Ken Salazar was confirmed as Interior secretary and resigned from the Senate in 2009, Udall became a senior senator after just 16 days as a junior senator—a vivid contrast to the likes of Delaware’s Joe Biden, who served 28 years as junior senator. Bennet, appointed to replace Salazar, is now the junior senator.