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Senior New Mexico senator hints at run for re-election

SANTA FE, N.M. — Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico on Friday called it a “pretty good guess” that he will run for re-election in 2020 without making a definitive commitment.

Udall also expressed hope for bipartisan efforts to expand health insurance coverage when a new Congress takes office next year with a Democratic House majority.

The 70-year-old senator helped at a Salvation Army holiday fundraiser outside a Walmart store in Santa Fe, the day after sharing a Thanksgiving dinner with relatives including cousin Mark Udall, a former U.S. senator from Colorado.

Tom Udall said he hopes to work with Democratic Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham to improve access to medical care. At the federal level, Udall expressed hope that Republicans in the Senate majority may agree to lower the age of Medicare eligibility by 10 years for people who want to buy coverage.

“Knowing that we have a split Congress and we have a Republican president for the next two years, we need to try and look at the areas where there is common ground, and one of the areas would be to move down the age of Medicare to 55,” Udall said. “A lot of those people are the people who aren’t getting insurance today. So between 55 and 65, let people buy in.”

Udall said he regards expanding health insurance coverage as essential to reducing overall costs for medical care.

The current age of Medicare eligibility is 65 with limited exceptions.

The number of uninsured residents in New Mexico has been cut roughly in half since the state expanded Medicaid coverage in 2014 to more low-income individuals, under the leadership of termed-out Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. State lawmakers are studying proposals to expand health care coverage by allowing people to buy into Medicaid who currently earn too much to qualify.

New Mexico Democrats swept all statewide races in the Nov. 6 election, re-electing U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich to a second term and flipping a traditionally Republican U.S. House seat to Democratic control, with the victory of attorney Xochitl Torres Small over state Rep. Yvette Herrell. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce left that House seat open to competition as he ran unsuccessfully for governor.

Herrell is alleging unspecified irregularities in the tally of votes, while the Sectary of State’s Office has expressed confidence in the count.

Udall, first elected to the Senate in 2008, called the midterm election “a pretty good indication of the direction the state is taking.”