Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2008, term expires 2020, 2nd term.

Born: May 18, 1948, Tucson, AZ

Home: Santa Fe, NM

Education: Prescott Col., B.A. 1970; Cambridge U., B.L. 1975; U. of NM, J.D. 1977

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.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Mormon

Family: Married (Jill Z. Cooper) , 1 child

Democrat Tom Udall, New Mexico’s senior senator, was elected to the House in 1998 and to the Senate in 2008. He belongs to a well-known political clan that is sometimes called the “Kennedys of the West.” He is the son of Stewart Udall, the Arizona congressman (1955-61) and U.S. Interior secretary (1961-69), and the nephew of Morris “Mo” Udall, an Arizona congressman (1961-91). He is also the first cousin of Mark Udall of Colorado, who lost his Senate reelection bid in 2014.

Tom Udall grew up in Tucson and in McLean, Va., a well-to-do Washington, D.C., suburb. He 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, who went on to become New Mexico’s governor. In 1988, Udall ran in the open, Albuquerque-based 1st District, and won the Democratic nomination, but he lost the general election to Republican Steven Schiff, 51%-47%. In 1990, he was elected state attorney general, and in that role, focused on environmental and consumer protection issues. He successfully sued the federal government to delay the planned opening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's first deep underground nuclear waste burial site, located in far southeastern New Mexico.

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. 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 reelection 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. 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. But the Senate refused to accept Udall’s proposal, and it was dropped from the legislation that was signed into law.

With a largely liberal voting record, he voted against the Bush administration’s USA PATRIOT Act, which gave law enforcement greatly expanded powers to investigate 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. Udall opposed the 2002 Iraq war resolution and called “misguided” a bill to restrict illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. After Democrats took control of the House in 2007, Udall secured a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

When Republican Sen. Pete Domenici announced he would not run for reelection in 2008, Republican Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce immediately jumped into the race; several Democrats, including moderate Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, considered it as well. But Udall was urged to run by Gov. Richardson and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer of New York, and his entry into the race 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. Domenici endorsed Wilson a few days before the June primary. Still, Pearce still won, 51%-49%.

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. (Pearce did manage to win back his old House seat in 2010.)

In the Senate, Udall joined his cousin, Mark Udall, who had just won election to a Colorado Senate seat. The two Udalls worked together closely, but tried to avoid serving on the same committees so they can “branch out” and cover a greater range of issues, Tom Udall told National Journal. He has been a more faithful Democrat than his cousin, and he and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal tied for most-liberal senator in National Journal’s 2012 rankings. In a nod to his state’s rural leanings, however, Udall supports some, but not all, gun control measures backed by other liberals.

He is amiable and avoids fierce rhetoric, which lets him work with senators on the other side of the ideological spectrum. He teamed in 2012 with conservative Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona on a measure to study the Energy Department’s much-criticized National Nuclear Security Administration and with libertarian Rand Paul of Kentucky in 2011 in calling for a faster troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. A Udall amendment providing tax credits for employers hiring military veterans discharged after 2001 was included in the 2009 economic stimulus bill. He was given a seat on the Appropriations Committee in 2013, a vital position for a state as dependent on federal spending as New Mexico.

On the Environment and Public Works Committee, Udall continued the push he began in the House for a national renewable energy standard. It has encountered resistance from lawmakers who fear their states cannot produce the wind or solar energy necessary to meet such a requirement. But Udall predicts that a law is “just a matter of time,” citing the 30 states with similar standards.

Udall also focuses on consumer-related issues. He asked the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 to investigate misleading safety claims in the sales of football helmets and introduced a 2010 bill requiring new cars to have “black box” data recorders to help investigate crashes. He also introduced a bill in 2011 to crack down on the use of painkillers and performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing. The legislation gained some attention following a New York Times exposé that showed rampant abuses at racetracks, but did not advance. He looks after New Mexico’s tribes as a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, working to add a provision to the health care overhaul for improved Indian medical services.

But Udall has drawn the most attention for his efforts to alter how the Senate conducts its business. Like many senators who come over from the House, he dislikes the frequent use of filibusters to delay or block pending legislation, often resulting in gridlock. At the outset of the 112th Congress (2011-12), he offered a plan that would bar the use of the filibuster on the initial motion to begin debate, but permit lawmakers to filibuster a final bill if they remain on the floor during debate. His plan also would eliminate secret “holds” used to delay nominations of executive branch officials. The Senate fell 16 votes short of the number needed to adopt Udall’s proposed changes.

After Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had reached agreement with Republicans informally on several ways to prevent gridlock in the chamber, Udall vowed to push for further improvements, particularly regarding the reduced number of votes needed to cut off a filibuster. But when the 113th Congress (2013-14) began, Reid said he wasn’t yet ready to abolish the 60-vote rule and unveiled a watered-down series of changes aimed at preventing filibusters. When Paul in March 2013 put one of Udall’s proposed changes into practice by staging a 13-hour talking filibuster, Udall noted that other Republicans continued to silently filibuster judicial nominees. “So on the one hand you’re encouraged, but on the other hand you’re very discouraged,” he said.

Udall is a popular figure in New Mexico, and -- in marked contrast to his cousin -- won reelection easily in 2014. He got fundraising help from, among others, George R.R. Martin, a longtime Santa Fe resident and author of the popular series of novels upon which the TV series Game of Thrones is based.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6621

(202) 228-3261

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 531
Washington, DC 20510-3103

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6621

(202) 228-3261

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 531
Washington, DC 20510-3103

DISTRICT OFFICE

(505) 346-6791

(505) 346-6720

219 Central Avenue, NW Suite 210
Albuquerque, NM 87102

DISTRICT OFFICE

(505) 346-6791

(505) 346-6720

219 Central Avenue, NW Suite 210
Albuquerque, NM 87102

DISTRICT OFFICE

(575) 526-5475

(575) 523-6589

201 North Church Street Suite 201B
Las Cruces, NM 88001

DISTRICT OFFICE

(575) 526-5475

(575) 523-6589

201 North Church Street Suite 201B
Las Cruces, NM 88001

DISTRICT OFFICE

(505) 988-6511

(505) 988-6514

120 South Federal Plaza Suite 302
Santa Fe, NM 87501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(505) 988-6511

(505) 988-6514

120 South Federal Plaza Suite 302
Santa Fe, NM 87501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(575) 234-0366

102 West Hagerman Street Suite A
Carlsbad, NM 88220

DISTRICT OFFICE

(575) 234-0366

102 West Hagerman Street Suite A
Carlsbad, NM 88220

DISTRICT OFFICE

(575) 356-6811

(575) 356-6814

100 South Avenue A Suite 113
Portales, NM 88130

DISTRICT OFFICE

(575) 356-6811

(575) 356-6814

100 South Avenue A Suite 113
Portales, NM 88130

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Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Kevin Cummins
Senior Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Anthony Sedillo
Legislative Assistant

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Calvert Curley
Field Representative

Animal Rights

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Arts

Anthony Sedillo
Legislative Assistant

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Banking

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Campaign

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Commerce

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Disability

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Economics

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Education

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Jonathan Black
Senior Policy Advisor

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Entertainment

Anthony Sedillo
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Andrew Wallace
Legislative Director

Jonathan Black
Senior Policy Advisor

Anthony Sedillo
Legislative Assistant

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Family

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Finance

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Foreign

Shawn Brown
Defense Fellow

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Matthew Padilla
Military Legislative Assistant

Gambling

Anthony Sedillo
Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Gun Issues

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Health

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Housing

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Insurance

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Matthew Padilla
Military Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Labor

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Land Use

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Military

Shawn Brown
Defense Fellow

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Matthew Padilla
Military Legislative Assistant

Minorities

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Native Americans

Anthony Sedillo
Legislative Assistant

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Public Works

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Lisa Van Theemsche
Legislative Correspondent

Calvert Curley
Field Representative

Recreation

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Religion

Devon Wohl
Correspondence Director; Legislative Correspondent

Rules

Matthew Nelson
Legislative Counsel

Science

Kevin Cummins
Senior Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Social Security

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Technology

Kevin Cummins
Senior Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Kevin Cummins
Senior Legislative Assistant

Trade

Kevin Cummins
Senior Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Kevin Cummins
Senior Legislative Assistant

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Jeffrey Lopez
Legislative Assistant

Clinton Cowan
Legislative Correspondent

Welfare

Dorcas Cisse
Legislative Correspondent

Lauren Arias
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2008 GENERAL
Tom Udall
Votes: 505,128
Percent: 61.33%
Steve Pearce
Votes: 318,522
Percent: 39.0%
2008 PRIMARY
Tom Udall
Votes: 141,629
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
House: 2006 (75%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (100%), 2000 (67%), 1998 (53%)

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