Pete Domenici (R-NM) has announced his retirement, citing health reasons. The move deprives the Republican party of a fifth incumbent in 2008, a year in which it is already defending 22 of 34 seats up for grabs. Others who are leaving include Wayne Allard (R-CO), John Warner (R-VA), Larry Craig (R-ID) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). The battle to take Domenici’s seat is expected to be highly competitive, as are those in Colorado and Nebraska, while prospects of a party change in Idaho is more of a longshot.
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) has already indicated plans to run for Domenici’s seat. However, she along with Domenici were involved in one of the hotter fired US Attorney cases, that of David Iglesias, which may be an exploitable issue for whoever the Democrats nominate to run for the seat. The state’s governor, Bill Richardson (D) could be a possibility, although the Washington Post reports he has no interest in the seat at this time.
Other Republicans facing serious challenges in 2008 include John Sununu (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Gordon Smith (R-OR). The most vulnerable Democrats are Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD).
RBR observation: Even if 2008 somehow turns out to be a good year to run as a Republican, Domenici’s exit would embolden a Democratic challenge and probably force national Republican committees to divert precious cash to New Mexico. The need to do that will rise exponentially if the Democrats manage to field a viable candidate, and it will in turn weaken party efforts in other locations. Incidentally, Democrat who will go into the history books as the very last to face off against Domenici is well known to broadcasters. It was former FCC Commissioner and anti-indecency champion Gloria Tristani. Domenici brushed her aside in 2002 with a commanding 65% of the vote.