Not coincidentally, all three are also considered possible challengers to Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who is favored to win a second term in 2006 even as he ponders a run for the White House in 2008.
“I’d love to some day come to Washington as a U.S. Senator,” Foley said.
But both Foley and Bradley allowed that they are looking more seriously at running for governor than for the Senate at this early stage, since Republicans believe that Richardson, a sometimes controversial figure, may have more vulnerabilities than the low-key Bingaman.
“A lot of guys who have ambition look at the governor as an 800-pound gorilla,” Graves said. “I think he’s lost a little weight since the last election.”
Bradley said he is considerably more likely to run for Senate if Bingaman retires, but under that scenario, Wilson and Rep. Steve Pearce could also be competing for the GOP nomination.
Republican leaders hope that someone powerful — possibly Domenici, who is close to Wilson — could act to prevent a bloody Senate primary between the two House Members. Here again, Domenici’s own future plans could be a factor.
But Joe Monahan, an Albuquerque political consultant, believes that Pearce won’t be willing to give Wilson a free ride to the nomination — and that Wilson’s attempts to distance herself from conservative Republican House leaders in order to win re-election to her Albuquerque-based district could hurt her in a statewide GOP primary.
Jim Burns, a spokesman for Pearce, said it is too early to comment about 2006.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Udall said that while the Congressman “strongly” hopes Bingaman runs for re-election, he would “examine his options” — and presumably look at a Senate race — if there is a vacancy. In addition to winning re-election easily since first being elected to Congress in 1998, Udall has the advantage of having won statewide races for attorney general in 1990 and 1994.
But Udall is considered risk-averse, and like Wilson, he would not necessarily get the nomination without a fight. State Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D), who is term limited in 2006, would probably run for an open Senate seat.
“I don’t think there’s any mystery there — she needs a job,” the Santa Fe lobbyist said.
Madrid, a former judge, has already lost twice to Udall in Democratic primaries: in a 1988 Congressional race and in the 1990 attorney general election. And she has been at odds at times with Richardson, who presumably would have some say about who wins the Democratic Senate nomination.
But sources close to Richardson said that Madrid seems to be mending fences with the governor, possibly in anticipation of a future Senate run. If elected, Madrid would make history by being the first Hispanic woman in the Senate.
Another possible Democratic candidate for Senate is Gallup Mayor Bob Rosebrough, who would likely try to position himself as a political outsider.
A vacancy in any of the three Congressional districts would also cause its own stampede, and both parties would spend a fortune to boost their candidates, particularly in the 1st district, where Democrats have targeted Wilson since she won a special election in early 1998.
The leading Republican in the 1st might be Bernallilo County Sheriff Darren White, a media-savvy former TV reporter who resigned his post as state secretary of public safety to protest then-Gov. Gary Johnson’s (R) proposal to decriminalize many drug offenses.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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