The Effect of Two Retirements

By Jim Ellis

March 28, 2019 — Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) both made public on Monday their intentions not to seek re-election in their respective houses of Congress. The Udall announcement was a surprise, and we updated our outlook on his open seat in our 2020 Senate Review, Part III, yesterday. Retirement rumors had begun to swirl around Rep. Serrano, especially with New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D) last week declaring his intention to run for the congressional seat.

The New Mexico Senate After Udall

Sen. Udall’s announcement saying that he will not seek a third term was unexpected. Both parties are now scrambling to see who will begin to line up to run for the open seat.

There is no question that Democrats will be favored to hold the seat but the new campaign evolving into a competitive battle is not out of the question. Though Republicans last won a New Mexico Senate seat with the late Sen. Pete Domenici’s last victory in 2002, the party did elect Susana Martinez governor both in 2010 and 2014.

Though Gov. Martinez’s approval numbers were low when she left office, she would have to be considered a possible, and viable, Senate candidate. Additionally, former US representative, and Senate and gubernatorial nominee Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), who is now the New Mexico Republican Party state chairman, will also likely surface as a potential candidate.

Former US Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque), who just left office as Secretary of the Air Force in order to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso, is unlikely to run, especially since she no longer lives in New Mexico.

The Democrats are in an interesting situation. After a 2018 election where they elected many new officials such as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, and US Reps. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces), it is unclear if any will attempt to move to another office after just obtaining their current position.

The veteran officials within the potential Democratic candidate stable are Attorney General Hector Balderas, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, state Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe). Therefore, the eventual nominee may well come from this latter list.

Sen. Udall was originally elected to the Senate in 2008, after serving five terms in the US House. Prior to his congressional service, he was twice elected as New Mexico’s attorney general. Though leaving elective office at the end of this congressional session, he pledges to remain involved in the political process.

NY-15 After Serrano

Veteran New York Rep. Serrano (D-Bronx), who was just elected to his eleventh term in November, also announced his retirement Monday. Serrano, at 75 years old, also disclosed he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In addition to his congressional service, the congressman spent just over 15 years in the New York State Assembly and has served in office consecutively since the beginning of 1975. In his 11 federal races, he never dropped below 64 percent, and broke 70 percent eight times.

There is no doubt a Democrat will succeed Rep. Serrano at the beginning of 2021. The 15th District performed as the strongest Democratic seat in the nation in the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton defeated President Trump here by a whopping 93.8 – 4.9 percent.

NY-15 is wholly located within the Bronx borough, bounded by Interstates 87, 95, and 278. It contains the Castle Hill, Hunt’s Point, Morrisania, Highbridge, and Fordham Heights communities, and includes the New York City landmarks of Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, and Fordham University.

Last week, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D) announced he would run for Congress, which ignited Serrano retirement rumors that have now proven true. We can expect several others to come forward into what should become a hotly contested Democratic primary, and particularly so when seeing that the party nominee is virtually guaranteed to easily win the general election.

The 15th is a Hispanic-Black district where the White Citizen Voting Age Population is only 3.5 percent. The Hispanic C-VAP is 61.9 percent, and the Black C-VAP is 31.7 percent.

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