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Udall 'Definitely Running' for Senate

Michael Coleman! " class="popup">By Michael Coleman
Journal Staff Writer
    U.S. Rep. Tom Udall will seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pete Domenici in 2008, making him the third of New Mexico's three U.S. House members to seek the seat.
    "He's definitely running," Udall's chief of staff Tom Nagle said Saturday.
    Udall, a Democrat, was not available for comment. He had said he would not run for the Senate seat but reconsidered after "a huge outpouring of support," Nagle said.
    New Mexico's other two representatives, Republicans Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, have already announced they will give up their House seats to seek the GOP nomination for the Senate.
    Udall will make a formal announcement when he is in New Mexico during Congress' Thanksgiving recess, Nagle said.
    Udall won his northern New Mexico 3rd District seat in 1998 after two terms as state attorney general.
    He will face off in the party's June primary election against Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez and others.
    Chávez has said that Udall's entry into the race would be a disservice to the state, especially because he would give up a coveted seat on the House appropriations committee.
    "Obviously, that was a very tough decision," Nagle said. "But the overall clout that he'll have as a senator is better than that of a committee member in the House. One senator in the majority party can do a lot for the state."
    Udall's announcement also means that New Mexico's 2009 Congressional delegation will include three freshmen representatives and a freshman senator, but Nagle said it is still in the best interest of the state for Udall to run.
    "It's a fact that we're going to have a freshman senator," he said. "It's clearly better for the state to have the best one possible."
    Nagle noted that Udall has been criticized for being too liberal to win the election, but said that research doesn't back up that claim.
    Internal campaign polling of likely voters shows Udall with an advantage in the Democratic primary and the general election, with stronger support from self-described moderates than any other candidate.
    Nagle said he still expects a tough race.
    "The Republicans in the general (election) are going to throw a lot of money in this fight, and there is going to be some competition in the primary," Nagle said. "But he's run tough races before, and he is the strongest candidate."
    A Saturday news release from Draft Udall, an organization founded Oct. 3 to convince Udall to make a bid for the Senate, said the group has gathered 600 signatures and donation pledges of more than $30,000 for Udall's campaign.
    Udall has about $800,000 in a campaign fund that he can use for the race, Nagle said.