11/24/2007Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chávez fired the first direct shot at U.S. Rep. Tom Udall in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race this weekend, blasting the Northern New Mexico congressman for his vote on reduced budgets for national laboratories in New Mexico.
"Tom Udall now has the dubious distinction of being the only member of Congress from New Mexico in history to vote in favor of decreased funding and cutting jobs at LANL and Sandia," Chávez's campaign manager, Mark Fleisher, said in an e-mail statement. "Udall owes these families and other lab workers an apology."
Fleisher also said Udall should apologize for his reported comments that his vote on the lab budgets was to send the labs "a message."
"Throwing people out of work and endangering our national security is not 'the message' New Mexicans want to hear from people in Washington like Tom Udall," Fleisher said.
While the harshest attacks were attributed to Fleisher, the news release quoted Chávez as saying, "New Mexicans must send a senator to Washington who will stand up for them, not someone who supports job cuts at our state's national laboratories."
In July, Udall voted for The House Energy and Water Appropriations Act, which would cut about $400 million from Los Alamos and Sandia compared to the previous fiscal year. Udall has said he cast that vote because the labs should be conducting energy research and science programs to address national security issues. The bill is pending in Congress.
LANL pays about $911 million a year in salaries for about 12,000 workers in Northern New Mexico.
A campaign spokesman for Udall responded in a written statement: "The budget cuts at the lab, if they occur, are part of a larger issue involving our nation's nuclear footprint. Tom Udall's vote did not affect those larger issues. Tom Udall has always supported the lab, its valuable employees, and (its) core mission. He has always worked to direct the lab toward a future, sustainable workforce. For the mayor to focus on possible job cuts demonstrates a lack of understanding of the issues and a penchant for putting politics ahead of the best, long range interests of LANL employees."
Chávez plans to visit lab workers in Los Alamos on Monday. Last week, LANL announced the laboratory might have to cut between
500 and 750 positions because of anticipated budget cuts. If the federal government accepts a LANL restructuring plan, the lab would ask employees to leave voluntarily, with severance packages based on their years of service, a lab spokesman said.
State Republicans already have criticized Udall for his vote, claiming the congressman put "partisan politics" above the good of New Mexico.