Daughter of New Mexico’s last Republican senator running for father’s old seat

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The daughter of the last Republican to serve in the U.S. Senate for New Mexico has launched a campaign to take her father’s old seat. 

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Nella Domenici, the daughter of the late Sen. Pete Domenici, formally announced her candidacy on Wednesday. 

“I’m officially running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico! Our state is amazing, but our leaders have failed us. Costs for families are up, crime is rampant, the border is wide open, and our kids are being left behind. We can and must do better!” she wrote on X. 

Politico first reported about the planned announcement. She already filed her statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Nella Domenici, a former chief financial officer of Bridgewater Associates, has entered a field of Republicans vying to replace Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich.

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Nella Domenici. her senator dad and Bush

Nella Domenici is running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico. Her late father, former Sen. Pete Domenici, is seen with President George W. Bush in Roswell, Jan. 22, 2004. (Handout/ Reuters)

In a state President Biden won by 10 percentage points in 2020, conservative Latino activist Ben Luna and former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales had already declared in the U.S. Senate race before Domenici, as well as failed 2020 state Senate candidate John Thomas Roberts. Both filed paperwork on Tuesday to compete in the June 4 GOP primary. 

“Our state is blessed with abundant natural resources, cultural diversity, rich traditions, hard-working people, and leading national laboratories and military installations. But sadly, our leaders in Washington and Santa Fe have failed us. The cost of living is up, we have a crime and drug crisis, the border is wide open, and our public education system is leaving our kids behind,” Nella Domenici wrote on her campaign’s Facebook page. 

“We can and must do better!” she continued. “I am uniquely prepared and ready to fight for a significantly improved New Mexican economy. My professional experience and education enables me to deeply understand inflation, taxation, setting and managing huge budgets and creating incentives and benefits that serve employees, and attract new businesses and entrepreneurs. And like my father and mother, I have been a warrior for those who most need an advocate: for women competing in academics or business, for families dealing with mental illness, and for those without access to quality healthcare or education.”

As New Mexico has grown increasingly blue in the past decade, Domenici is hoping to capitalize on the reputation of her father, who left office 15 years ago. He died in 2017 at age 85. 

After first being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, the same year as Biden, Pete Domenici served six terms before leaving office in 2009 after deciding not to run for re-election, making him the longest serving senator in New Mexico’s history. For decades, he was influential in the GOP at the national and state level, serving as chairman or ranking member of the powerful Senate Budget Committee for many years. He was also known for his energy policy and as a strong advocate for New Mexico’s national laboratories, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Domenici in Senate

U.S. Envoy in Iraq Paul Bremer meets with Sens. Pete Domenici, right, Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, center, and Pat Leahy, D-Vt., prior to testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, Sept. 22, 2003. (Reuters/William Philpott)

Combined with her own decades in the finance industry, Nella Domenici added a powerful name to the race against Heinrich, who won his last re-election in 2018 by more than 30 points. 

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In a released statement, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines, R-Mont., championed, “Nella’s experience at the highest levels of business, commitment to securing our border, and passion for improving education make her a strong candidate to flip this seat.” 

Democratic Party of New Mexico Chair Jessica Velasquez, however, had doubts about the seat flipping from blue to red. 

“If Nella Domenici survives the dogfight, her close ties to Wall Street and her work for a mega-hedge fund that laid off American workers while investing in China will all face extensive scrutiny as Republicans’ primary intensifies,” Velasquez said, according to Politico. 

Heinrich in Senate

Sen. Martin Heinrich listens during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Jan. 11, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images)

Though New Mexico would be a welcome pickup for the GOP, it is not considered close to a swing state, and Republicans are more heavily vying to flip Senate seats this year in West Virginia, Ohio and Montana, all states former President Trump won in 2020. Other main targets include Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, according to Politico. 

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It remains to be seen, however, if Domenici’s candidacy will prompt Democrats to spend more in the state this year. 

As an initial investment, Domenici contributed $500,000 to her campaign. Heinrich, who could soon become the next top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, had already raised $3.2 million by the end of last quarter, according to Politico. 

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