Sen. Tom Udall won’t seek a third term in 2020

‘The worst thing anyone in public office can do is believe the office belongs to them,’ New Mexico Democrat says

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is not running for re-election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2020, creating an open seat in a state that has swung decidedly toward the Democrats in recent years. 

“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,” he said in a statement. “But the worst thing anyone in public office can do is believe the office belongs to them, rather than to the people they represent.” 

Prior to his election to the Senate in 2008, Udall served five terms in the House and two terms as state attorney general. 

In his announcement, Udall stressed that he would continue to work for the remainder of the current term, which ends in 2021.

“In fact, I see these next two years as an incredible opportunity. Without the distraction of another campaign, I can get so much more done to help reverse the damage done to our planet, end the scourge of war, and to stop this president’s assault on our democracy and our communities,” he said. “These are three real crises that are happening right now and are threatening the very foundations of our great nation. If we don’t do something, it will soon be too late.”

Several Republican names were floated as potential candidates to replace Udall, but it could be a challenging race for them.

The last Republican to win a Senate seat in New Mexico was Pete V. Domenici in 2002, when he won a sixth and final term. The state’s junior senator, Democrat Martin Heinrich won a second term last year by 24 points. Hillary Clinton won the state by 8 points in 2016. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales continues to rate the New Mexico Senate race Solid Democratic. 

Potential Republican candidates include former Gov. Susana Martinez, former Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, and business owner Mick Rich, who ran against Heinrich in 2018, according to GOP sources. 

On the Democratic side, House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján indicated in a statement Monday that he is considering running.

“I am humbled by the outpouring of support I received today,” Luján said. “In the weeks to come, I will speak with my family, New Mexicans, and supporters about the opportunity to serve our state in the U.S. Senate.”

Luján is currently the fourth-highest ranking Democrat in House leadership, and has been floated as a potential future candidate for speaker. Current Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not said when she will retire, but she has agreed not to serve more than four more years in her present role.

The progressive group Democracy for America issued a press release Monday encouraging reporters to include freshman Rep. Deb Haaland of the 1st District and New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in the “list of potential candidates.” Democracy for America is a political action committee founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Stephanie Akin and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. Also watch: First 2020 Senate race ratings are here

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