Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Adios, Pete Domenici

New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici is expected to announce his retirement tomorrow.

Domenici has struggled with health problems over the last several years and has been dogged by questions about the role he may have played in the firing of U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias in Albuquerque. As a result, he had been long been rumored as a potential retirement. He joins Republican Sens. John Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Wayne Allard (Colo.) on the sidelines for 2008.

The most likely candidates on the Republican side are Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Several Democrats are mentioned including Rep. Tom Udall, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and former state Attorney General Patricia Madrid. The dream candidate for Democrats is Gov. Bill Richardson but his advisers insist he is not interested and focused on the 2008 presidential race. Wealthy businessman Don Wiviott is already in the race and has put several hundred thousand dollars of hiw [sic] own money into the bid.

It’s been six years since I’ve lived in New Mexico, but I’ve been following the politics there. My guess is that Heather Wilson won’t take the plunge; she barely won re-election last year; a sign that she’s worn out her welcome, not to mention her part in the Iglesias firing. Marty Chavez has been the mayor of Albuquerque (off and on) since before I moved there in 1995, and the last time he ran for state-wide office was for governor and lost to the incumbent, moderate Republican Gary Johnson. He’s done a lot of good for the city, but I’m not sure he’s that well known outside of Bernalillo County, and New Mexico is a huge state.

As much as I respect Bill Richardson, his chances of winning the presidency are nada; he’s more VP material or would make a dandy Secretary of State. It would be no shame for him, after taking his expected losses in the primaries, to make the run for the Senate. My guess is that he’d win by a nice margin, the same way he’s won all of his elections for Congress and governor.

As for the Republicans and their dwindling hopes for keeping the Senate in 2008 with a number of vulnerable seats and the already-announced retirements, Senator Pete, as he’s known around the state, has just dropped a jalapeño in their martinis.