Sen. Tom Udall (D)
Elected: 2008, term expires 2014, 1st term.
Born: May 18, 1948, Tucson, AZ .
Home: Santa Fe.
Education: Prescott Col., B.A. 1970; Cambridge U., B.L. 1975; U. of NM, J.D. 1977.
Family: Married (Jill Cooper); 1 child.
Elected office: NM atty. gen., 1990-98; U.S. House of Reps., 1999-08.
Professional Career: Law clerk, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1977; Asst. U.S. atty, 1978-81; Practicing atty., 1981-83, 1985-90; Chief cnsl., NM Health & Environment Dept., 1983-84.
Democrat Tom Udall was elected to the House in 1998 and to the Senate in 2008. He belongs to a political clan that is well known in the West and nationally. He is the son of Steward Udall, the Arizona congressman (1955-61) and U.S. Interior secretary (1961-69), and the nephew Morris “Mo” Udall, an Arizona congressman (1961-91). He is also the first cousin of Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado and a distant cousin of former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, the only Republican in the bunch—sometimes called the “Kennedys of the West.” Tom Udall grew up in Tucson and in McLean, Va., went to Prescott College in Arizona, got a degree at Cambridge University in England and graduated from the University of New Mexico Law School. He worked as a law clerk for a federal judge, then as a lawyer in the New Mexico state government before going into private law practice. Politics was obviously on his mind. He ran for Congress in 1982, when the 3rd District was newly created, and finished last among four candidates, with 13% of the vote. The winner was Democrat Bill Richardson, now governor. In 1988, Udall ran in the open, Albuquerque-based 1st district, won the Democratic nomination but lost the general to Republican Steven Schiff, 51%-47%. In 1990, he was elected state attorney general of New Mexico.
|Tom Udall (D)||505,128||(61%)||($7,841,887)|
|Steve Pearce (R)||318,522||(39%)||($4,626,706)|
|Tom Udall (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 House (75%), 2004 House (69%), 2002 House (100%), 2000 House (67%), 1998 House (53%)
In 1997, when Richardson resigned the 3rd District seat, Republican Bill Redmond, an independent Christian minister from Los Alamos, won it in an upset, assisted by a Green Party candidate nominee who won 17%. In 1998, Udall decided he had a shot at the seat, given the district’s heavy ratio of Democrats to Republicans. He worked to consolidate the Democratic and leftist vote. Drawing on lawyers, the arts community and friends of the Udall family, he raised daunting sums. The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters criticized Redmond and ran waves of ads against him. As for the third-party threat, Udall said, “I intend to make peace with the Greens.” He won with 53% of the vote. Redmond got the same 43% he had won 18 months before, while Green Party nominee Carole Miller saw her 17% evaporate to 4%. Udall won re-election without serious challenges four times.
Udall had a seat on the House Resources Committee, on which his father served and which his uncle chaired. He helped to enact a bill to explore establishment of a national historical park at Los Alamos. With Republican Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, he formed a bipartisan coalition to seek alternatives to high-priced and finite petroleum resources. Locally, he called for a ban on oil drilling in the Valle Vidal area of the Carson National Forest, which was passed in 2006. He opposed Republican attempts to permit salvage logging in national forests as well.
With a largely liberal voting record, he voted against the Bush administration’s USA PATRIOT Act, which gave law enforcement greatly expanded powers to catch terrorists. He proposed revisions in the act to limit police authority to obtain search warrants and to restore civil liberty protections for libraries and bookstores. He also called for an independent agency to monitor civil liberties abuses in the war on terrorism. Udall also opposed the 2002 Iraq war resolution and called “misguided” a bill to restrict illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. With the rest of the New Mexico delegation, he protested the Pentagon’s recommendation to close Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, which would have meant the loss of roughly 20% of the local workforce. Instead, the Pentagon decided to move its Special Operations Wing to Cannon.
In January 2007, after Democrats took control of the House, Udall secured a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. His bill to allow Indian tribal governments to apply for grants to investigate and shut down methamphetamine labs was passed unanimously by the House in February 2007. He tried to amend the energy and water appropriations bill to restore $192 million of the $300 million being cut for national laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, but his amendment was defeated 312-121. Despite losing that battle, Udall voted for the final bill, unlike New Mexico Republicans Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, who voted against it. He was criticized at home for voting for the appropriations bill, and defended his position as a signal to the labs that their missions needed to change from a focus on nuclear weapons to alternative-energy research and other areas. But when the House voted in June 2008 to shut down the plutonium-manufacturing program at Los Alamos, Udall voted against.
On the 2007 energy bill, he sponsored an amendment requiring 15% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources other than nuclear power by 2020. The Democratic leadership supported this amendment, and the bill passed 220-190 in August. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that Udall’s proposal remain in the legislation when it went to a House-Senate conference committee, but the Senate refused to accept it, and it was dropped from the legislation that was signed into law.
In October 2007, Republican Sen. Pete Domenici announced he would not run for re-election in 2008. Wilson and Pearce, the state’s two Republican congressmen, immediately jumped into the race; several Democrats, including moderate Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, considered it as well. This was the first open Senate seat in New Mexico since 1972, and only the second open seat since 1948. Udall at first said he wasn’t interested. But Gov. Richardson and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer of New York urged him to run. On November 10, a little less than a year out from the election, Udall announced his candidacy, which quickly cleared the Democratic field.
Meanwhile, Wilson and Pearce battled for the Republican nomination. Pearce attacked Wilson for supporting the Democrats’ expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which he called “socialized medicine,” and for voting to raise taxes. Wilson hit Pearce for votes against additional guards on the U.S. border with Mexico and against keeping Cannon Air Force Base open. Domenici, long thought to favor Wilson, stayed neutral. But when the national anti-tax organization Club for Growth ran ads against her, Domenici denounced “out-of-state” people interfering in the contest and endorsed her a few days before the June primary. But Pearce still won, 51%-49%. Wilson won 66% in Albuquerque’s Bernalillo County, but had lower percentages in suburban counties and northern New Mexico. Pearce won large majorities in southern New Mexico and in the southeastern “Little Texas” region.
The primary drained Pearce’s war chest, and Udall was able to significantly outspend him, $7.8 million to $4.6 million. Pearce went on the attack, painting Udall as captive to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and its “hippie” traditions. A former oil-industry executive, Pearce also hammered Udall for his opposition to new oil exploration in environmentally sensitive areas. Udall responded that he was for a “do-it-all” approach to energy. It was apparent long before November that this wasn’t much of a contest. Udall won 61%-39%. Pearce carried only Little Texas in the southeast and the San Juan Basin in the far northwest corner.
In the Senate, Udall joined his cousin Mark Udall, who had just won election to a Colorado Senate seat. The two were awarded more seniority credit than other freshmen because of their House service. In one of his first moves, Udall proposed designating 17,000 acres in San Miguel County as wilderness. It was added to Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s lands bill and passed in January 2009. A Udall amendment providing tax credits for employers hiring military veterans discharged after 2001 was included in the February 2009 economic-stimulus bill.