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Local party chairs react to Udall retirement

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This May 16, 2018 file photo shows ranking Member Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., questioning Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Capitol Hill in Washington. Udall says he will not seek re-election in 2020 in a move that opens up a securely Democratic seat to competition. Udall announced the end of a 20-year career on Capitol Hill on Monday in a statement. (AP Photo)

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Chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties of Chaves County have responded to the news that New Mexico Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall has opted not to run for re-election.

Udall – first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 and re-elected in 2014 – released a written and video statement Monday where he stated that he will not run for a third six-year term.

“The worst thing anyone in public office can do is believe that the office they hold belongs to them, rather than to the people they represent. That’s why I’m announcing today that I won’t be seeking re-election next year,” he said.

Stephanie Thomas, who was elected chair of the Democratic Party of Chaves County Saturday, said she was sad to hear the news of Udall’s decision.

“I know he spent several years serving the people of New Mexico, and while it sounds like this is what he wants, it is always bittersweet to have someone step back from that,” Thomas said.

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Before his election to the U.S. Senate, Udall served as New Mexico’s attorney general from 1990 to 1999 and then as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, according to Udall’s official Senate website.

Udall hailed from a western political dynasty that included his father, Stewart Udall, a former Arizona congressman and U.S. Interior Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Mo Udall, Tom Udall’s uncle and a former Arizona congressman.

Robert Corn, chair of the Republican Party of Chaves County, said he was glad to hear the news, noting that Udall has been an elected official for many years in New Mexico.

Corn said there is likely to be a great deal of interest in the race by Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I’m sure that there will be several people who throw their hat in the ring and it will be interesting to see how that comes out,” Corn said.

Thomas said that local Democrats will be interested to see who steps up to run for the seat on the Democratic side and hope to support that candidate in any way they can.

Udall’s decision alters the dynamics of the 2020 race. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a website that ranks Senate races, shifted the contest from a “safe Democrat” to one that is “likely Democrat” following Udall’s announcement.

“This should still be a hold for Democrats, but it may take more time and money then if Udall, a strong incumbent, had decided to run for re-election,” the website states.

No Republican has won a U.S Senate seat in New Mexico since 2002 when Pete Domenici was re-elected to a sixth term.

So far, no candidates have formally launched a primary campaign for the seat, but at least two people have left the door open to a run.

“Today’s focus is on @SenatorTomUdall and I’m grateful for his service as we continue to work together improving the lives of New Mexico children and families. After discussions with my wife and family, I will provide any updates at the appropriate time,” Hector Balderas, a Democrat and New Mexico’s attorney general tweeted Monday.

Mick Rich, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate who lost his bid in 2018 to unseat New Mexico Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, also expressed interest in a possible run Tuesday in a Facebook post titled Mick Rich Considers 2020 Run for U.S. Senate in New Mexico.

“Whether or not I decide to run,” Rich said, “I will work tirelessly for our shared vision of a prosperous, healthy, strong New Mexico,” according to the post.

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

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