tags: Targeted Races

Domenici (Open-NM-Sen)

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RESULT: Tom Udall 61% – Steve Pearce 39% 

The Race:

In October 2007, long-time Republican Senator Pete Domenici announced that he would not seek re-election. [Almanac of American Politics 2008, accessed 9/23/08] Domenici’s association with the U.S. Attorneys firing scandal in 2007 damaged his reputation in state. “In February 2007, the state political landscape was roiled by allegations that Domenici and Congresswoman Heather Wilson had pressured David Iglesias, one of eight U.S. attorneys asked in early December 2006 to resign, to pursue public corruption cases before the November elections. Domenici waited several days to respond to the accusations; he then admitted that he had telephoned Iglesias to inquire about the status of the case but denied threatening or pressuring him.” [Almanac of American Politics 2008, accessed 9/23/08]

The Democratic nominee, Congressman Tom Udall, ran unopposed in the primary, while the Republican nominee, Congressman Stevan Pearce, received 51% of the vote in a two-way primary with Rep. Wilson. [National Journal, accessed 9/23/08] Udall has been a member of the House since 1998 and was the New Mexico Attorney General from 1991 to 1999. [Tom Udall for Senate, accessed 9/22/08; website of Congressman Udall, accessed 9/22/08] Pearce has been a member of Congress since 2003 and was a member of the New Mexico State House of Representatives from 1997 to 2000. [Washington Post Vote Database, accessed 9/23/08] The Cook report speculated that Udall was likely try to tie Pearce to President Bush and his policies, while Pearce was likely to try to peg Udall as too liberal. [The Cook Report, accessed 9/23/08] The candidates have targeted Spanish speaking voters in their campaigns. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported, “Hispanics are more politically aware this year than any other, and some say they are a key voting block.” [The Santa Fe New Mexican, 9/23/08]

The Udall Position:

COMPREHENSIVE REFORMER. On his campaign website, Udall’s immigration position focuses on border security. Udall writes, “Our Border Patrol has been asked to do much to protect our nation, but has been given too little in resources and support. If we are going to get serious about securing our borders, we must give the Border Patrol the equipment and training they need. I support efforts to increase the resources available to secure our borders. Our Customs and Border Patrol personnel need state-of-the-art electronic equipment and monitoring devices to help improve efforts to catch illegal immigrants and those who profit by smuggling immigrants into New Mexico.” [Tom Udall for Senate, accessed 9/22/08] However, during his tenure in Congress, Udall has advocated comprehensive reform.

In an interview in 2008, Udall was asked if he thought some kind of wall on the Mexican border would be effective in deterring illegal immigration. He stated, “I don’t think we need a wall the entire length of the border. I think what we need is strategic fencing and we need new technology could really make a difference here…The thing that I don’t think we’ve done on a bipartisan basis, and there’s been too much bickering, is we haven’t really pushed to get the full complement of Border Patrol people that they need on the border.” [Federal News Service, MSNBC, 8/26/08]

In a 2006 press release, Udall commended President Bush for outlining his plan on immigration reform. He wrote, “Congress must soon act to establish an immigration policy closely adhering to many of the points the President has enumerated, including increasing the number of Border Patrol officers, creating a temporary worker program, and creating a new biometric identification card for every foreign worker to ensure employer accountability.” [Tom Udall Press Release, 5/19/06] In 2005, Udall called a bill to build fences along the U.S.-Mexican border and require businesses to prove their employees were in the country legally a political ploy by “the extreme element in the Republican Party.” [Albuquerque Journal, 12/18/05]

The Pearce Position:

ENFORCEMENT FIRST. Pearce released a TV ad titled “Wrong” which said, “Raising taxes on middle-class families to pay for benefits for undocumented workers is just plain wrong. How did you vote, Tom?” [The Hotline, 9/10/08] In a series of ads on his website titled, “How did you vote, Tom?” Pearce attacked Udall’s vote on HR 3963, which, he said, “enacted a $71 billion tax increase and allowed undocumented workers to receive health care benefits.” [Steve Pearce for Senate, accessed 9/22/08] Udall denounced the ad, saying it was an “attempt from the Pearce campaign to mislead New Mexicans.”[Roll Call, 9/10/08]

On his Congressional website, Pearce’s immigration position reads, “New Mexico is at the forefront of America’s immigration problems. The residents of New Mexico know our nation faces an unprecedented amount of illegal immigration in its recent history. That is why I have supported securing our borders first, through technology and vehicle barriers before we address the legalities of illegal immigrants and their varying statuses. Once our borders’ are secure, we take a good hard look at illegal immigration and find better, more accurate and long term solutions that will address guest workers and not quick fixes.” [website of Congressman Pearce, accessed 9/22/08]

During Pearce’s bruising primary, immigration was an important issue. U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, his opponent, released an ad which stated, “Why is Steve Pearce running a negative campaign? Because on important issues, he’s wrong. Steve Pearce voted against adding 3,000 border guards to secure our border.” [The Cook Report, accessed 9/23/08] Pearce attacked Wilson for missing a vote on a bill to crack down on sanctuary cities and wrote a letter saying, “It’s tragic that the people’s will lost by one vote, since Heather Wilson put her political ambitions above her responsibility as a congresswoman.” The mayor of Albuquerque, Martin Chávez, said of Steve Pearce’s position, “He helped create this (overall U.S. immigration) mess through his inaction, and now he wants to politicize it.” [Albuquerque Journal, 4/18/08]

In 2007, Pearce wrote an opinion piece on his plan to reform the immigration system. Pearce wrote, “No issue facing America today is more emotional on both sides of the issue than immigration…reforming the immigration problem in America is a three-step process: 1) Successful reform to secure our borders; 2) Deal with the 12-15 million illegal immigrants already here; 3) Reform an immigration system that can take 20 years to gain citizenship legally.” He wrote that he opposed comprehensive immigration reform and instead favored addressing each aspect of the immigration problem individually. He wrote that he was for a fence, be it physical or virtual, and that if immigrants wanted to come here legally, they should have to return to their home country first and then go to the back of the line. [Editorial; The Hill, 5/2/07]

New Mexico Senate