Senate 2008: It's Time to Force Pete Domenici into Retirement

I have written for some time that New Mexico's aging Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, should be amond the Democrats' top targets in 2008, not only because his conservative views are way outside of the mainstream -- particularly for a state as balanced politically as New Mexico -- but also because his Jim Bunning-like actions (walking around the Senate in pajama bottoms) raise real questions about his competence to serve another six years. But new questions surrounding the possibility that Domenici abused his office for partisan political reasons should further enlarge the target on the Senator's back. First, the details of the allegations from Paul Kiel over at TPM Muckraker.

Well, our list of suspects just got a whole lot shorter.

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias told McClatchy Newspapers (and The Washington Post) that two members of Congress had called him in mid-October to pressure him about an ongoing corruption investigation of a state Democrat. He refused to identify the lawmakers in any way, because he feared retaliation.

But in comments to the Albuquerque Journal, he was a whole lot more specific. He told the paper that "two members of the New Mexico delegation" had contacted him.

Now, there are only two members of the New Mexico delegation that we haven't heard from: Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R). And it's not just us. The pair have ducked calls from everyone (a partial list: McClatchy, The Washington Post, the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Tribune). Back in October, Wilson was fighting for her political life in one of the closest races in the country. Domenici, as the state's sole Republican senator, is the White House's state contact for the U.S. attorney in the state -- he would have been originally responsible for Iglesias' nomination and the nomination of his successor.

For a lot more on the story -- and I do mean a lot more -- check out Joe Monahan's coverage out of New Mexico. In short, though, there are serious allegations that Domenici used his position as Senator to try to exert power over a United States Attorney (a Republican appointee) in order to ramp up an investigation of a former Democratic lawmaker in the state, presumably for the gain of the Republican Party. True, this could be viewed as a case of he said, she said. But as Josh Marshall notes over at Talking Points Memo, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey had very glowing things to say about the Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney in question and, what's more, The Washington Post's Dan Eggen writes that Iglesias' work as a defense attorney in the Navy served as the basis of the Tom Cruise film "A Few Good Men" (for whatever that's worth).

But getting beyond the specific details of this story, the headline remains that Domenici potentially used his office for partisan political gain, a big no-no, as it were. And given the possibility that Domenici just might not be up to a heated campaign that not only questions his fitness to serve but also his intentions and trustworthiness, it's incumbent upon the Democrats, both inside New Mexico and those trying to extend the party's majority in the U.S. Senate, to begin to put pressure on Domenici to retire rather than stand for reelection, as he has indicated an intention to do. If this means an investment of $50,000 of $100,000 today for television and newspaper ads throughout New Mexico calling Domenici out for his alleged actions I think it would certainly be worth it.

Additionally the Democrats also need to ramp up their recruitment drive in the state. A number of potential Democratic heavyweights -- Rep. Tom Udall and Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez, to take two examples -- have stated an unwillingness to run for the Senate in 2008 if Domenici were to run for reelection. Yet if they, or other candidates of their potential strength, were to flirt with a run today, they might, along with an ad buy by the DSCC or the Democratic Party of New Mexico, be able to sufficiently scare Domenici so that he decides against seeking another term. There is little potential downside to such a move but great potential upside, and as such there seems to be little reason to me why such a combined effort should not be undertaken at this point.

Tags: New Mexico, NM-Sen, Prosecutor Purge, Senate 2008 (all tags)

Comments

8 Comments

each GOP Senator should get a blog

Is the DSCC or someone else willing to pay for bloggers to bird dog individual Senators and build communities opposed to their re-elections?

IMO each GOP Senator up for election in 2008 should have a blog dedicated to how each has enabled the Bush administration and highlighting their individual flaws.

by Carl Nyberg 2007-03-01 10:57AM | 0 recs
The road to 60

Smart analysis.  As Stu Rothenberg has suggested, over the next two cycles, we should shoot for 60 seats in the Senate - actually lay out a plan to get there.  Think of what our potential list of 2008 pick-ups would look like if we force Domenici and John Warner into retirement:

New Mexico (open/tossup - plus Domenici's retirement likely forces Heather Wilson to give up her D-leaning House seat)

Virginia (open/likely D if Mark Warner enters)

Colorado (open/lean D)

New Hampshire (toss-up)

Minnesota (toss-up)

Oregon (toss-up if we can get a heavyweight to challenge Smith)

Maine (at worst, lean R)

North Carolina (tossup - Dole is in trouble - let's just find someone other than Bowles, can't we?)

That's 8 very real pick-up opportunities. If we hold all of our seats, we're up to 58 + Lieberman (who we could cordially invite to self-fornicate).

Looking ahead to 2010:

Florida (Martinez is very unpopular)
Kentucky
Pennsylvania (Arlen Specter may well retire)
Ohio (Voinovich may retire)
New Hampshire (nail Gregg with Iraq)
Iowa (Grassley looks kinda ricketty to me)
Arizona (McCain retirement - Senator Napolitano?)

That's 65 - strong enough to withstand a 2012 blowback from our large 2006 class.

In short, the road to 60 looks immensely doable, and forcing these old codgers to give up competitive seats is part of how we make it happen.

by Lassallean 2007-03-01 11:44AM | 0 recs
more 2008

Cornyn is unpopular.

Inhofe is a kook.

McConnell deserves a hard race, especially as he allows Bush to pull his popularity down.

by Carl Nyberg 2007-03-01 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: The road to 60 - New Mexico

If Dumb-'n-itchy retires (or dies!) we have a good shot.  But that's predicated only on fallout from the US Attorney scandal, and it's a big if.  People outside NM have no idea how great the esteem for "Saint Pete" is.

The scandal will hurt Heather Weasel much more than Dumb-'n-itchy.  She'll have a hard time hanging on to the NM CD1 seat.  She'll be much too damaged to run for Senate in 2008.  That would leave Tom Udall vs. nobody of note, maybe gap-toothed Steve Pearce.

Marty Chavez can beat the Weasel in CD1 any time he wants to, but that doesn't make me feel very confident.  Think of Lieberman in a bolo.  Senator Marty would be a nightmare.

by NM Ward Chair 2007-03-05 03:37PM | 0 recs
Right Now and Not Later

     We need to make clear to Udall, Chavez, and everybody else that this is your one shot. In 2014 we will support a candidate only if he or she had the courage to run in 2008. If you're not willing to fight the good fight for the sake of the party, why should we promote you when the going is easier?

by Ron Thompson 2007-03-01 11:52AM | 0 recs
What about Bill Richardson?

Has he got a shot at POTUS?

by Carl Nyberg 2007-03-01 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: What about Bill Richardson?

I think so.  But I'm biased, having seen him in action for more than 20 years.  For me, the key is whether he can raise enough money to keep up with the "top tier" candidates.  That will be the difference.

by NM Ward Chair 2007-03-05 03:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Senate 2008: It's Time to Force Pete Domenici

Not to be trivial, but the courage and integrity demonstrated in the public service of David Iglesias is sorely diminished by citing the cinematic rendition of his Navy career as "the Tom Cruise movie".

Please! This gripping and still relevant story about abuse and cover-ups at Guantanamo was originally a play by Aaron Sorkin, starring Tom Hulse (Amadeus) as the attorney based on Mr. Iglesias. His performance and stage presence make Tom Cruise look like Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Lollipop!

by victoid 2007-03-01 05:18PM | 0 recs

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