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Thursday was a bittersweet day in Los Alamos. It was the last official visit to the community by Sen. Pete Domenici.
For 36 years he has a been a strong supporter of Los Alamos, New Mexico and our nation. He was a friend to many and a figure of strength to many more.
Now that he is retiring after six terms in the United States Senate, we view his departure with a mix of sadness and fear.
In his retirement, Los Alamos and New Mexico is losing its best supporter and its best fighter. When we were threatened with cuts, or reductions or such, it was always Domenici who stood up and fought for us.
Now that he is leaving and we are losing that champion, we look ahead with some fear.
While this is not his obituary, some facts about him are worth knowing so we can all better know the man.
He was born May 7, 1932, in Albuquerque as Pietro Vichi Domenici, the son of Italian immigrants.
He graduated in 1950 from St. Mary’s High School in Albuquerque. After earning a degree in education at the University of New Mexico in 1954, he pitched for one season for the Albuquerque Dukes, a farm club for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He taught mathematics at Garfield Junior High in Albuquerque and earned his law degree at the University of Denver in 1958 and returned to practice law in Albuquerque.
After graduating, he married Nancy Burk. Together they have two sons and six daughters (Lisa, Peter, Nella, Clare, David, Nanette and twins Paula and Helen).
In 1966, Domenici won a position on the Albuquerque City Commission and in 1968 was elected Commission Chairman. This position was equivalent to that of mayor under the structure of city government at that time.
In 1970 he unsuccessfully ran for governor, losing to Democrat Bruce King.
In 1972, Domenici successfully ran for the U.S. Senate and became the first New Mexico Republican to be elected to the position in 38 years, defeating Hobbs real estate company owner Democrat Jack Daniels.
Domenici was re-elected in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2002 and is the longest-serving senator in his state’s history.
He is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. He is also a member of the U.S. Senate committees on Appropriations, Budget and Indian Affairs.
He is an advocate for the mentally ill, having pushed the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 and is an avid proponent of nuclear power and has published two books on the subject: “A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy” and “Advanced Nuclear Technologies – Hearing Before the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate,” which he edited.
During Domenici’s tenure in the Senate he advocated waterway usage fees, nuclear power and related causes. He announced on Oct. 4, 2007, his decision not to seek re-election to the Senate in 2008 for health reasons.
That gets us to here, today.
His visits here Thursday with the many people who befriended him was touching, he crossed the generations and was a champion of many causes. But at the end of the day he was a fighter for New Mexico and the United States.
His wit, his dedication and his helpfulness will be missed.
Here is a recap of the endorsements of our editorial board. Like the community, the board was not unanimous with its picks, but here they are again anyway.
And one thing – be sure you all go vote!
Sharon Stover, Mike Wismer and Vincent Chiravale.
Public Regulatory Commission