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The race is on

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By Carol A. Clark

Tired of watching bills pass the House and die in the Senate, Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., spoke with Senate leadership and received assurances before deciding to jeopardize his seniority in the House and run for the Senate.During an interview at the Monitor Thursday, Udall described some of the reasons he threw his hat in the ring. “First, I began to see a very sincere ‘draft Udall’ movement,” he said. “I’d go to soccer games and to the post office and people would say, ‘You’ve got to run.’”Udall expressed disappointment with the Senate being a “graveyard” for lots of good legislation, including the National Renewable Electricity Standard, which he sponsored. “I’d work hard on an important bill and it seemed to go over there (to the Senate) and die,” he said. “I believe one more senator could make a difference.”Wanting to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pete Domenici with the person best suited to benefit New Mexico, but worried about giving up his senior position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Udall said he met with Senate leaders Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Jeff Bingaman to discuss the situation.“They said they would get me in some key positions as soon as possible,” Udall said.Udall is running against Republican representatives Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson. “New Mexico won’t see a race like this in a generation,” he said.Udall has been criticized for voting against a bill that contained funding for the lab. He said he voted against the bill because he knew there was a bill, the budget reconciliation appropriation bill, containing energy research funding of some $560 million, and was assured LANL could go after a good portion of that money.“My vote was a vote for the future of the lab and a vote to move into this new energy area,” Udall said. “Steve and Heather voted against the entire lab budget.”Wilson recently announced the appointment of longtime local Republican leader JoAnn Johnson as her Los Alamos campaign chair.Udall said his campaign does not have a local chair but rather many Los Alamos people working on his campaign.“What you don’t want is one person – you want to bring more and more people in,” he said.Having been New Mexico Attorney General for eight years, Udall said he knows the state party officials as well as many citizens, having run two statewide campaigns and having presented countless talks to groups throughout the state in his role as AG. He’s already held fundraisers in Los Alamos, he said and made a 10-city swing when recently announcing his candidacy for the Senate.It’s unclear whether Pearce has selected a local campaign chair, as his office did not immediately return calls.Change and experience are what Udall called his “campaign focus.”“I think I’ve got both,” Udall said. “I’ve got more than two decades of experience in public service, and the country needs change on energy, global warming, health care, education – there’s hardly an area you can look at that doesn’t need major reform. We need to devise a new clean energy policy and we need to completely revamp No Child Left Behind.”Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed Udall earlier this month. After announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race, Richardson said he planned to do three things:  Spend more time with his wife, pass health care for every New Mexican and help Udall get elected to the U.S. Senate.