Certainly there was no doubt that New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici’s retirement after 35 years in the Senate would mean change for his home state. But now it turns out that the ripple effect created by Domenici’s announcement could change nearly all of the state’s representation in Congress.
Rep. Tom Udall, a Democrat, initially said he would not run to replace Domenici, but on Monday Udall’s office confirmed rumors that began over the weekend — Udall is officially in the race. That means every one of the state’s three members of the House of Representatives, including incumbent Republicans Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, will be giving up their seats for a chance at Domenici’s. (Gov. Bill Richardson is also looking for a chance to vacate his state post. He’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, though he remains far behind the leaders.)
New Mexico, despite its relatively small size, has been a contentious swing state in recent elections because it is quite evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The 2006 midterm was no different, as Wilson faced a tough reelection fight that she just barely squeezed out of, winning by a margin of not even 900 votes out of more than 210,000 cast. (Pearce and Udall were both reelected comfortably.) The electoral picture in 2008 may be cloudier for state Republicans than in previous years, though, both because of the party’s woes nationally and because of Domenici’s connection to the scandals surrounding the Bush administration’s firing of several U.S. attorneys. Udall has released internal polling showing that if the election were held today, he’d beat his major primary opponent and sail through the general election.