Nov 13, 2007

State to Lose Some Clout

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By Barry Massey, The Associated Press

SANTA FE— New Mexico will end up with less influence in Congress because of the political scramble by candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pete Domenici.

When a new Congress convenes after the 2008 elections, New Mexico will have lost more than two decades of seniority accumulated by its House delegation. All three incumbents— Republicans Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce and Democrat Tom Udall— are giving up their seats to run for the Senate.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman will remain as the state's only incumbent member of Congress in January 2009. The state will have three freshman House members.

Domenici, the longest-serving senator in New Mexico history, is retiring at the end of his term because he has an incurable brain disease.

In Congress, seniority matters. It plays a role in determining the committee assignments of members. That's important because committees are where much of the work of Congress occurs in drafting and amending legislation.

With service over many years, members can also hone political skills in the legislative process and build trust among their colleagues— an important factor in getting things accomplished in Congress or blocking proposals that could hurt New Mexico.

Senior members typically land seats on the most influential committees. Long-serving members move up to become chairmen or ranking minority members of subcommittees and full committees.

Wilson and Udall were elected in 1998. Wilson won a special election in June of that year to complete the term of the late Republican Rep. Steve Schiff, who died in office. Pearce was elected to the House in 2002.

In the current Congress, Udall landed a plum committee assignment— a seat on the Appropriations Committee, which allocates money for programs, agencies and projects.

Domenici serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, a position he's used to safeguard the interests of New Mexico's extensive network of federal facilities, such as Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

Wilson serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It's a highly coveted assignment, because the committee deals with a wide range of issues, from telecommunications and energy to public health. She is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the ranking Republican on one of its subcommittees.

Pearce is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the ranking Republican on its subcommittee on energy and mineral resources.

The situation facing the state is not without precedent, however. The 1968 elections led to the ouster of both of the state's incumbent House members, leaving the state with two freshmen when the new Congress convened. Republican Manuel Lujan beat Democrat Thomas Morris, and Republican Ed Foreman defeated Democrat E.S. "Johnny" Walker. Lujan went on to serve in the House for two decades. New Mexico gained a third seat in Congress in the early 1980s.
Even with the loss of four of its five incumbents in Congress, New Mexico won't be left defenseless.

Bingaman, who was elected to the Senate in 1982, has both seniority and important committee assignments in watching out for home state interests in Congress. He is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which handles energy policy and public lands issues— important areas for New Mexico. He also serves on the Finance Committee, which deals with taxes as well as Social Security and health care issues such as Medicare. He is a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster and veteran observer of New Mexico politics, says the loss of seniority is "bound to have an impact" on the state. "We've been blessed with a lot of members of Congress lately with lots of clout and leadership. Four of them are giving it up," he says.

The good news, he says, is that the state's next senator will likely be "experienced in the ways of Washington." The high-profile candidates are the three members of Congress and Democrat Martin Chávez, the mayor of Albuquerque and a former state senator.


Anonymous said...

"In Congress, seniority matters."

Interesting that seniority matters in Congress, yet doesn't appear to matter much at the Los Alamos National Laboratory when it comes to getting rid of people. It sure didn't matter for 1995 RIF. Will seniority matter this time around? Given the arrogance of the place, don't count on it.

Anonymous said...

Why should seniority matter in a RIF?

Maybe it matters to you if you're an under-performing slacker who's been around a few years, but really, you'd be the person who should be RIFfed, no matter how long you've been at it.

Anonymous said...

Isn't seniority one of the objective RIF factors that have held up in court?

Anonymous said...

> Isn't seniority one of the
> objective RIF factors that have
> held up in court?

No doubt that's true, but so has other silliness, like gender and last name pronounceability.

Anonymous said...

"Isn't seniority one of the objective RIF factors that have held up in court?"

Maybe for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. And as was pointed out in the LLNL All-Hands meeting yesterday, seniority may be a factor (behind SKAs and skills match to programmatic mission) for the 500 or so supplemental labor and Flex Term employees that will face the involuntary reduction in mid-January.

Anonymous said...

The RIF should go as it does in every other f-in company in the US ... last in, first out! Of course, this complicates the friends and family plan...

Anonymous said...

11/13/07 3:22 PM said: "Why should seniority matter in a RIF?"

This is probably one of the dumbest questions ever asked. Taking seniority into account doesn't suggest we ignore performance. Both should be taken into account, and that's the point. What a jerk!

Anonymous said...

Only at Los Alamos do layoffs get conducted based on subjective factors like who you know, where you come from, what college you graduated from, and ORC scores rooted in little more than whether someone likes you or not. To even suggest that objective factors might be used for once at this Lab, like seniority for example, is simply expecting too much of such a disfunctional place as this. I know, I've been stuck here for much too long. Time for me to get out of Dodge, as they say. I doubt that many will follow me however. They're too addicted around these parts to the double-dipping and lack of any meaningful accountability to care about doing something useful with their lives anymore. That's just the nature of who we are at Los Alamos I'm sorry to say.

Anonymous said...

Senator Tom Udall. Just ponder the thought of that name for a while. It's frightening!

Some of the newbies at LANL (and there are many of them) don't seem to realize just how hard it is going to be for LANL to survive now that we have lost the protection of our New Mexico delegation.

What you see happening to LANL this year is just the beginning of a very nasty trend.

Pinky and The Brain said...


Senate 2008

New Mexico: Republicans breathed a sigh of relief in early October when Rep. Tom Udall (D) announced he would not run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pete Domenici (R). Last week, however, Udall changed his mind and entered the Senate race, exacerbating GOP headaches nationwide.

Udall is an immensely popular congressman, not only winning high percentages in his race, but bringing in mammoth vote totals -- 175,000 in presidential years, and 145,000 in mid-term elections in his Santa Fe-based 3rd District. With a cushy seat on the Appropriations Committee and a safe job, he didn't want to run for Senate, which left Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez (D) as the Democrats' top candidate. National Democrats, however, twisted Udall's arm, and he jumped in. In early Democratic polls, Udall soundly defeated the two leading Republican candidates, Representatives Heather Wilson (R) and Steve Pearce (R). While the early polls likely shortchange the eventual Republican nominee, they are a testimony to Udall's statewide popularity.

The state's political landscape favors the Democrats. Udall will have the help of Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Democratic Gov Bill Richardson, who will either be campaigning for Udall come fall or on the national ticket as a running mate. Domenici has not indicated he will back any Republican candidate, and his declining health might keep him from campaigning. Nearly half the state's voters are registered as Democrats, with only a third registered as Republicans. The state is also 42 percent Hispanic. However, this Hispanic population -- unlike Hispanic population in most states -- is not made up of new immigrants, but long-time residents. Domenici consistently won the Hispanic vote, and the most Republican district in the state (Pearce's 2nd District) is the most Hispanic.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has a big fundraising edge over its Republican counterpart, and with the GOP defending at least five open seats and at least three vulnerable incumbents, their resources will be spread thin. The Republicans might find some hope in the fact that Udall didn't really want to run in the first place, but this is the fourth GOP Senate seat to enter our Democratic column. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

House 2008

New Mexico-3: Rep. Tom Udall's (D) decision to run for the U.S. Senate (reversing an earlier announcement) means all three New Mexico congressional districts will be open in 2008. This may be the least competitive of the three.

Udall's district covers the top third of the state, and is anchored in the state capital, Santa Fe, a liberal town. The 3rd District also includes Los Alamos and the other national laboratories. The Northwest corner of the district, around Farmington, is Republican, but the district is "majority-minority," 36 percent Hispanic and 19 percent American Indian. John Kerry carried 54 percent of the district in 2004 (and Ralph Nader won five percent here in 2000).

Liberal activist Don Wiviott (D) exited the Senate race upon Udall's announcement and immediately jumped into this race. Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya (D) is also running. No Republicans have entered the race yet. Likely Democratic Retention.

Anonymous said...

"The 3rd District also includes Los Alamos and the other national laboratories."

Little help. What other national laboratories are in the 3rd District?

Anonymous said...

Since the quote was cut and pasted, it likely means:

"The 3rd District also includes Los Alamos [county] and the other national laboratories [accidentally plural, but noted after Sandia, which was listed in district NM-1]."

Pinky and The Brain said...

Thanks, I read right through that part and didn't notice. Nobody commented on We have sharper readers.

Anonymous said...

Martin Chavez will crush Tom Udall in the primaries. Chavez will have much stronger support from the New Mexico county that contains over half this state's population. He's a relatively popular Mayor, having been elected twice in the last 10 years. The fact that Chavez is Hispanic also will help him in this state.

I can't wait to see ol' Tommy Boy stomped and left without either a Senate seat or his Congressional district. Perhaps we'll finally get a Congressman who gives a damn about the good paying jobs at LANL once Udall is gone.

Anonymous said...

care to cite a poll?

Anonymous said...

poll numbers:

Anonymous said...

I see a Tom Udall supporter is trolling the blog. It's too early to put much weight on those poll numbers. Chavez is just getting started and Udall is largely running on name recognition.

I'm putting my money on Chavez, both figuratively and literally. Chavez is growing the business environment down in ABQ, while Udall is helping to destroy what is left of the business environment in his district.

Anonymous said...

So you pull assertions out of your ass, and I cite poll numbers which match what the best political experts say in the Washington Post, and I am the troll?

I would put my money on Chavez dropping out of the Senate race and entering the NM-1 race.