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New Mexico delegation reflects on McCain

Cindy McCain, wife of, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pauses at her husband’s casket as he lies in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, Friday, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

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People throughout the nation — including at least one member of New Mexico’s congressional delegation — paid their respects to Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain during a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. Friday.

Friday’s ceremony and public viewing was part of a five-day, cross-country funeral procession from Arizona through the nation’s capitol to the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. The procession will pause by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial on the way to a formal funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.

McCain, 81, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. McCain — a Navy veteran who was held by the North Vietnamese as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War — began his political career in 1982 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 where he served until his death.

He was also the 2008 Republican nominee for president, a race he lost to Democrat and then-fellow senator Barack Obama.

Whitney Potter, a spokesperson for New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, said Heinrich attended Friday’s ceremony in the rotunda. Heinrich served alongside McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Sen. McCain. He was an incredible public servant who put country before party and whose presence in the Senate inspired courageous leadership and moral conviction,” Heinrich said in a statement Saturday after McCain’s death.

He added that with McCain’s death, the country “lost one of its most steadfast heroes.”

McCain was known for his close relationship with lawmakers in both parties.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, said in a press release that McCain and Udall’s uncle, former Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz, were of different parties but still managed to get along.

“John said about my uncle Mo Udall: ‘We disagree in politics but not in life,’ And that was how John lived — in service to his nation and his ideals, always rising above the divisiveness and distrust that has consumed so much of our politics.”

“The nation — and the world — will miss John’s fierce independence and his unwavering dedication to doing what is right — no matter the cost. Now more than ever, during these uncertain times, let us all strive to follow in Sen. McCain’s footsteps and to rise to his heroic example,” according to Udall’s release.

New Mexico’s three members of the U.S. House of Representatives also released statements after McCain’s death.

“Sen. John McCain, an American hero and maverick of the Senate, made service to the country the cause of his life. He strived to live up to America’s highest ideals, and in doing so served as an example to all Americans. His love for our nation, its promise and its place as a force for good drove him to put country over politics,” Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. said in a statement Saturday.

“Sen. McCain will be remembered as a heroic soldier, a grand statesman, a true gentlemen and a loving father and husband. I thank him for his service to our nation and for inspiring generations of lawmakers to live out America’s deepest values and principles,” the statement continued.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M. said in a statement Aug. 25 that with McCain’s death “America lost one of its greatest statesmen.

“Sen. John McCain served the United States with honor for over six decades,” Lujan said. “He was a war hero, a patriot and a tireless public servant. Through unimaginable trials, Sen. McCain never failed to put his country first. He led and served with grace, determination and courage. Sen. McCain once said ‘No one of good character leaves behind a wasted life.’ Sen. McCain leaves behind a legacy that will stand as an example for generations to come. May he rest in peace,” Lujan said.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., whose district includes Roswell, did not have an official statement about McCain’s death posted on his official congressional website. However, Pearce posted on his Facebook page Aug. 25 that “Sen. McCain fought for our nation’s liberties in the battlefield as well as in the halls of Congress. I am thankful for his lifelong dedication to our nation.”

In a post two days later, Pearce said that “John McCain was a respected hero who pushed to hold others accountable. He will be sorely missed in Washington and across the nation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.