Udall's Surprise Exit Leaves New Mexico Senate Race Wide Open

Written by on March 26, 2019

The New Mexico political landscape was blown asunder Monday night when two-term Sen. Tom Udall stunned fellow Democrats by announcing he would not seek re-election in 2020.

The son of the late U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and nephew of the late U.S. Rep. Mo Udall — both icons in the environmental community — Tom Udall has never had difficulty winning his previous two terms and was considered a cinch for his third.

His explanation for leaving was unclear: “The worst thing anyone in public office can do is believe the office belongs to them, rather than the people they represent.  That’s why I’m announcing today that I won’t be seeking re-election next year.”

Udall’s exit paves the way for the likely nomination of a Hispanic Democrat as his successor.  The two most oft-mentioned names are those of State Attorney General Hector Balderas, the top vote-getter of any statewide candidate last year, and six-term Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Assistant Speaker of the House and past chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Both are about the same age (Balderas is 45, Lujan 46) and committed liberals on every issue from abortion to opposing the Trump agenda.  Both are among the best-known of their state’s politicians — Balderas became New Mexico’s youngest-ever Hispanic statewide official when he was elected state auditor in 2006 at age 33, Lujan is the namesake-son of a well-known office-holder.

Balderas is considered a cinch to run but sources generally feel Lujan may opt to remain in the House where he is thought to have a chance to succeed friend and mentor Nancy Pelosi as speaker when she steps down in 2022.

Three other Democrats mentioned for the Senate are Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, Secretary of State Maggie Tolouse Oliver, and Rep.  Xochiti Torres Small.  But all are in their first terms in their current offices and thought unlikely to challenge the more seasoned Balderas and Lujan.

Even Republicans admit that New Mexico is leaning more toward Democrats.  Last year, Democrats won races for the governorship and U.S. Senate seat, maintained their majorities in both legislative houses and picked up a Republican U.S. House seat. 

At this early stage in the race, Republican hopes are pinned on Steve Maestas, self-made millionaire developer and political newcomer.  A graduate of Catholic High School who never went to college, the hard-charging Maestras launched the development company that went on oversee more than 50 projects throughout the Southwest.  A political newcomer, Maestras is considered a strong conservative.

Prospective candidates for a Senate seat that has just become open may, of course, change dramatically when the primaries are more than a year away.  For now, about the safest bet one can make is that the race to succeed Tom Udall is wide open. 

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Source: NewsMax Politics

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