This year has passed by so quickly for so many reasons, but was so action packed politically and personally. What began as a field of what, 33 or something? ended with the election of a brilliant, eloquent and young new President of the United States. Barack Obama will be inaugurated in about two and a half weeks and I am so excited. I worked for an opponent in the primary, Bill Richardson, but proudly supported Obama after Richardson withdrew, at the urging of my 10 year old daughter Amanda. Amanda turns 11 on inauguration day, and I would love to take her to DC for the event, but finances and time are conspiring against me. So I think I will throw a party for her and celebrate our new President from a distance.
New Mexico became one of the most hotly contested states in 2008. Senator Pete Domenici announced his retirement due to health reasons, though it has been said that his departure from the US Senate had more to do with the US Attorney Scandal than a degenerative brain disease, but the announcement shook up NM politics. Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson faced off for the republican nomination, Pearce edging out Wilson. Tom Udall initially faced opposition from Marty Chavez, but Tom's overwhelming popularity was so evident Marty withdrew and Tom coasted through primary season. I was privileged to work for the Udall campaign this fall, and no one runs a cleaner race than Tom. I know this is biased but Tom Udall is a pillar of integrity and proof that there are ethical and dedicated public servants in politics. Pearce tried to slap him around, but Tom's record and ability to make people feel so at ease contributed to a huge 22.1% margin of victory, no small achievement in New Mexico.
The Senate race created a total vacuum of representation in the US House, as all three of our congressional seats were vacated for the run, by Tom Udall in CD 3, Heather Wilson in CD 1, and Steve Pearce in CD 2. Former Albuquerque city council leader Martin Heinrich, a young, energetic candidate faced off against Sheriff Darren White in CD 1, defeating him handily, despite narrow polling. Harry Teague also won a decisive victory in CD 2 despite narrow polling as well, and Ben Ray Lujan faced little opposition in the north. So, NM went from 3 republicans and 2 democrats in congressional representation to all five being democrats.
NM Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon deserves a lot of credit with his "Blue State 08" strategy, which mirrored the national 50 state strategy in leaving no county uncanvassed. Of course, I again confess bias where Chairman Colon is concerned, but in my 20 years of politics in New Mexico I have never seen a more powerful, persuasive and committed chair, nor one who inspires enthusiasm and activism the way Brian does. Well done Brian Colon, I know you will continue to lead our party and our state to a better future!
November's election did not end the political drama in NM. Governor Bill Richardson has been nominated to serve President Obama as Secretary of Commerce. Initially I was disappointed by this post, as Richardson seems suited perfectly to Secretary of State, but the more I learn about Commerce the more I see the fit. Richardson has been incredible for business and economic development in our state and his international diplomacy skills combined with business savvy will serve our nation well. His departure as governor is causing the deck chairs to reshuffle here. Lt. Governor Diane Denish will serve out the remainder of his term and while there are rumors of primary opposition in 2010 at this time it is rather hard to say. Should Diane strike a commanding profile and steward New Mexico through the current budget shortfalls I think she will not see a serious opponent until the general, but it will be challenging. Who takes Diane's seat at LTG remains to be seen, and that will surely generate another vacancy (any bets on Hector Balderas???)
One thing is certain, while 2008 was very exciting in NM politics, 2009 promises to be another thrill ride, through the 2010 midterm election. Good for wonks like me!
More blogging to come. I need coffee!