“Now, I’m most certainly not retiring. I intend to find new ways to serve New Mexico and our country after I finish this term,” he said.
This story has been updated to reflect the version printed in the March 28 edition of The Taos News.
Speculation about the ins and out of the next federal election cycle was already chugging along when U.S. Sen Tom Udall threw an unexpected wrench into the mix: he will not seek reelection in 2020.
The announcement came Monday morning (March 25) in a statement from his office.
“I’m confident that we could run a strong campaign next year to earn a third term, because of all the work you and I have done together, along with my wife, Jill, and my incredibly dedicated staff. But the worst thing anyone in public office can do is believe the office belongs to them, rather than to the people they represent. That’s why I’m announcing today that I won’t be seeking reelection next year,” Udall said in the statement.
“Now, I’m most certainly not retiring. I intend to find new ways to serve New Mexico and our country after I finish this term.”
In the Senate, Udall has served in top leadership posts in committees dealing with environmental issues and Indian country. He’s put forth legislation to stave off rollbacks of environmental regulation and protections of federally owned lands like Taos’ Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Prior to serving in the Senate, Udall was the New Mexico Attorney General and the representative from the state’s third district, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.
And in all those years of public service, Udall has picked up a reputation as a public servant who was really out to serve the people of New Mexico.
“Udall’s always been a champion for New Mexico, period,” said Thomas “Chuby” Tafoya, a longtime leader in the local Democratic Party.
“I met him when when I was 18 and just getting involved in politics. There was a lot of patrons back in the day that ran the party,” Tafoya said, speaking of Udall’s effort to “clean that up” as the state’s AG. “Udall’s always been about the issues. He’s a fine man and always honest,” he said.
While Tafoya recalled walking in parades with the senator, another Democratic Party official lauded his accessibility.
“He didn’t forget Taos, he didn’t forget a lot of the smaller counties in the state,” said Darien Fernandez, chair of the Taos County Democratic Party and a Taos town councilor. “It was nice having Udall spending a lot of time up north.”
The announcement of Udall’s decision was still fresh on Twitter when a storm of speculation about who would seek to replace him began swirling over the state.
The news, Fernandez said, has “been blowing up everyone’s phones all day.”
Some names being thrown around as possible contenders for Udall’s seat in the Senate include Attorney General Hector Balderas, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Lujan, who on Tuesday said he was “seriously” considering a run. Republican Mick Rich, who ran a losing campaign against U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich in 2018, has also indicated he is considering another run.
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