Tag Archives: Sen. Tom Udall

The Sleeper Race?

By Jim Ellis

Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti (left) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe)

Oct. 5, 2020 — It seems every election cycle features a surprise Senate contest. This year, that campaign may reside in New Mexico.

For months, it’s been a foregone conclusion that Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) would succeed retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D). Recent polling, however, suggests that Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti may have been discounted a bit too early.

The latest polling trends clearly show a narrowing margin. A new Public Opinion Strategies survey for the Ronchetti campaign (Sept. 26-28; 500 registered New Mexico voters; live interview) finds the upstart Republican climbing to within six percentage points of Rep. Lujan, 46-40 percent.

In June, Public Policy Polling (June 12-13; 740 New Mexico voters) projected Lujan holding a predictable 14-point lead, 48-34 percent. At the beginning of September, the Research & Polling firm tested the state (Aug. 26-Sept. 2; 1,123 likely New Mexico voters, live interview) and saw Lujan’s edge slipping a bit to 49-40 percent. In the middle of last month, POS tested the race two weeks before their aforementioned survey and found an almost identical result when compared to their current offering. The mid-September ballot test yielded a 45-39 percent split.

Mark Ronchetti is a former chief meteorologist for the Albuquerque CBS television affiliate in a media market that covers about two-thirds of the state, since it stretches northward to Santa Fe and beyond. Therefore, Ronchetti has significant name identification, though not in relation to politics.

Rep. Lujan won the state’s northern congressional district in 2008, succeeding Udall when he was first elected to the Senate. Prior to his congressional service, the six-term incumbent was a four-year member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

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Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R)

May 7, 2019 — Four-term Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R), 75, announced from the Gillette City Hall building Saturday that he would not seek re-election next year and will end his career as the third longest-serving senator in state history.

In addition to what will be a 24-year tenure in Washington, Enzi has served in elected office in all but four years beginning in 1975. He was elected Mayor of Gillette in 1974, then to the state House of Representatives in 1986, the state Senate in 1991, and finally to the US Senate in 1996.

Sen. Enzi becomes the fourth in-cycle senator to announce his retirement, joining Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Tom Udall (D-NM). Wyoming, being one of the strongest Republican states in the country and even more so in a presidential election year, is heavily favored to remain in the GOP column.

Most of the succession speculation centers around at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson), the House Republican Conference chair and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Former Gov. Matt Mead (R), who just left office in January since Wyoming limits its governors to two consecutive terms, would obviously be another strong candidate if he were to run.

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Democratic Primary Simmering in New Mexico: Candidates Waste No Time Lining Up to Succeed Udall

By Jim Ellis

March 29, 2019 — Sen. Tom Udall (D) surprised the political world on Monday when he released a video announcing that the will retire when this session of Congress adjourns instead of running for a third term. Though he appeared to be a lock for re-election, the 70-year-old senator said it was time for him to look for other political avenues from which to contribute.

Potential Democratic successors are wasting no time. Later today, state Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) is releasing a video message that will presumably contain his Senate announcement. He may soon have company from Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe).

Balderas is no stranger to statewide office in the Land of Enchantment. After winning a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2004, the freshman legislator was elected state Auditor in 2006. He then ran for an open Senate seat in 2008, but decisively lost the Democratic primary to now-incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). He was re-elected Auditor in 2010, and then ran for, and won, the attorney general’s post in 2014. Balderas was re-elected in November with 62 percent of the vote.

Though he ran for re-election last year, it was originally thought that Balderas would challenge Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) for the open gubernatorial nomination. But, Grisham opened with a large lead, took advantage of her strong inside connections, and Banderas, knowing he could not afford to lose another statewide race, decided to stay put. Therefore, instead of running for governor, he made a major public production of supporting Grisham and unifying the party for the gubernatorial push. That move may well pay-off for him in this open Senate election.

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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.

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2020 Senate Review – Part III

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2019
— The third and final segment of our three-part Senate review covers the races alphabetically from North Carolina through Wyoming, with a re-visit to the new open seat in New Mexico:

  • New Mexico – Sen. Tom Udall (D)Open Seat – Since our Senate review began, Sen. Udall, who looked to be a lock for election to a third term, announced he will not run in 2020. Democrats will be favored to hold the seat, but Republicans have won statewide races here as late as 2014, so the potential for a competitive 2020 campaign exists.
    So far, Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) and US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) both confirm they are considering running, as is 2018 Republican nominee Mick Rich. Two individuals have already said they will not enter the Senate race: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber (D). Many more potential candidacies from both parties are being discussed. Currently, this open seat earns at the very least a Lean Democrat rating but is realistically Likely Democratic.

  • North Carolina – Sen. Thom Tillis (R) – This will be a top-tier race, as are almost all North Carolina Senate races. Sen. Tillis ousted then-Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in 2014 in a state that has re-elected only one senator since the days of Sam Ervin (D) and Jesse Helms (R).
    The Democrats failed to recruit their top target in Attorney General Josh Stein (D), and so far, their field is second tier. Only Mecklenburg County commissioner-at-large Trevor Fuller (D) and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston) have declared their candidacy.
    Sen. Tillis received pushback for originally opposing President Trump’s emergency border declaration, which has fueled rumors of a potential primary challenge. Therefore, the North Carolina campaign is in a state of flux. Much will change here in the coming year to affect the outcome. Currently, rate this seat as Lean Republican.

  • Oklahoma – Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) – The major discussion surrounds whether 84-year-old veteran Sen. Inhofe will retire. If he runs, the election campaign may be slightly more competitive based upon the 2018 Oklahoma results, in which the Democrats made some significant gains. Even if they continue to build momentum, their chances of winning a statewide election in the Sooner State still remain slim. Likely Republican until it becomes clear whether or not Sen. Inhofe will seek re-election.

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