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United States Senate election in New Mexico, 2008

United States Senate election in New Mexico, 2008

November 4, 2008

Nominee Tom Udall Steve Pearce
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 505,128 318,522
Percentage 61.3% 38.7%

County results

U.S. Senator before election

Pete Domenici

Elected U.S. Senator

Tom Udall

The 2008 United States Senate election in New Mexico was held on November 4, 2008. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Pete Domenici decided to retire instead of seeking a seventh term. All three of New Mexico's U.S. Representatives (Tom Udall, Steve Pearce, and Heather Wilson) chose to retire from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to run for the seat. Pearce defeated Wilson in the Republican primary. Udall won the Democratic primary unopposed and won the general election. Udall's win ended 36 years of Republican control of this seat.


  • Background 1
  • Democratic primary 2
    • Candidates 2.1
    • Campaign 2.2
    • Results 2.3
  • Republican primary 3
    • Candidates 3.1
    • Polling 3.2
    • Results 3.3
  • General election 4
    • Candidates 4.1
    • Predictions 4.2
    • Controversy 4.3
    • Finances 4.4
    • Debates 4.5
    • Polling 4.6
    • Results 4.7
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In February 2007 Domenici indicated his intention to run for re-election.[1] By October 2007, he changed his mind, stating that because of the progression of a medical condition, he would not seek a seventh term.[2] Domenici also lost his chairmanship after Republicans lost control of the Senate in the 2006 Senate election, which may have inclined him against running. On June 3, 2008 Pearce and Udall won their respective nomination contests.[3]

Democratic primary



After Domenici announced he was not running, Democratic Governor Bill Richardson was considered a leading candidate for the seat, but in October he affirmed his commitment to his presidential nomination campaign.[4]

In October Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez entered the race for the Democratic nomination.[5] In early November five-term Democratic Rep. Tom Udall entered the race.[6] On December 7 Chavez withdrew from the race, saying "While I deeply appreciate all the support I have received, it has become very clear to me that Democrats should not be divided in the upcoming election."[7]


Democratic Party primary results[8]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Udall 141,629 100.00%
Totals 141,629 100.00%

Republican primary



Source Date Pearce (R) Wilson (R)
SurveyUSA May 15, 2008 49% 46%
SurveyUSA November 16–18, 2007 37% 56%


Republican primary results[8]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Steve Pearce 57,953 51.29%
Republican Heather Wilson 55,039 48.71%
Totals 112,992 100.00%

General election



In February 2008 CQ Politics changed the rating of the election from 'No Clear Favorite' to 'Leans Democratic' citing polls.[9][10] In June, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, considered New Mexico to be one of the top ten most competitive Senate races.[11] At the end of August, The Cook Political Report rated the race as 'Lean Democratic'.[12] At the end of September, The Rothenberg Political Report rated the race 'Likely Takeover'.[13]


Domenici and Wilson were both being investigated by the Senate for their roles in the dismissal of prosecutor David Iglesias. This may have affected Wilson's chances in the 2008 election.[14]

In late October Pearce made 130,000 automated phone calls, which led Wilson to "cry foul."[15] At issue was Pearce's use of the phone calls to justify his opposition to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill. The Wilson campaign claimed that "Pearce violated House ethics by urging those he called to contact him through his official, non-campaign phone number or check out his official, non-campaign Web site."[16]


The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) attempted to defend 23 Senate seats up for election in November. Committee chair Senator John Ensign identified the 10 most competitive Republican seats in June 2008. He was asked about the two Republican seats most likely to turn Democratic, Virginia and New Mexico. Ensign did not directly say whether the NRSC was considering walking away to work on other seats that can be won, but he said, "You don’t waste money on races that don’t need it or you can’t win.”[17]

Udall raised more than $801,000 prior to November 29.[18] Wilson had slightly less, including a November Washington fundraiser with Vice President Dick Cheney that netted $110,000, bringing her total to about $750,000.[19]


The candidates have agreed to three televised debates: October 15 on KOB-TV, October 18 on KRQE and October 26 on KOAT-TV. The AARP will co-sponsor the second debate and the Albuquerque Journal will co-sponsor the final debate. They will also appear together on Meet the Press in the fall.[20]


Pearce (R) v Udall (D)
Source Date Pearce (R) Udall (D)
Survey USA October 31, 2008 42% 56%
Rasmussen Reports October 28, 2008 41% 56%
Rasmussen Reports October 13, 2008 37% 57%
Survey USA October 13, 2008 40% 58%
Rasmussen Reports October 1, 2008 41% 55%
Survey USA September 29–30, 2008 39% 58%
Public Policy Polling September 19, 2008 37% 57%
Survey USA September 16, 2008 41% 56%
Rasmussen Reports September 8, 2008 44% 51%
Rasmussen Reports August 20, 2008 44% 52%
Rasmussen Reports July 24, 2008 35% 61%
SurveyUSA May 15, 2008 36% 60%
Rasmussen Reports May 14, 2008 37% 53%
Rasmussen Reports April 10, 2008 40% 54%
Rasmussen Reports February 29, 2008 42% 50%
New Mexico State University February 11, 2008 31% 53%
SurveyUSA November 16–18, 2007 40% 54%
Research 2000 November 5–7, 2007 37% 54%
SurveyUSA October 27–30, 2007 40% 56%
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates October 23–27, 2007 33% 50%
SurveyUSA October 5–7, 2007 37% 55%


General election results[21]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Tom Udall 505,128 61.33% +26.37%
Republican Steve Pearce 318,522 38.67% -26.37%
Majority 186,606 22.66% -7.43%
Turnout 823,650
Democratic gain from Republican Swing


  1. ^ Talhelm, Jennifer (2007-02-13). "Domenici: 'I am running' in 2008".  
  2. ^ Murray, Shailagh (2007-10-05). "Citing Health, GOP's Domenici says he'll retire from Senate".  
  3. ^ - Pearce narrowly wins U.S. Senate nomination
  4. ^ Press, Associated (2008-10-04). "Richardson Sticks with Presidential Bid".  
  5. ^ "Chavez announces U.S. Senate run".  
  6. ^ "NM Rep. Tom Udall to Run for Senate".  
  7. ^ "Chávez drops out of U. S. Senate race".  
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "Democratic Udall Running Strong in New Mexico Senate Race".  
  10. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate CQ Politics
  11. ^ Kate Phillips, G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections The New York Times, June 13, 2008
  12. ^ 2008 Senate Race Chart The Cook Race Ratings, August 21, 2008
  13. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 14, 2008
  14. ^ "Wilson, Possibly Udall To Seek Domenici's Senate Seat". The Gate. October 4, 2008. Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  15. ^ "Pearce calls voters, Wilson cries foul".  
  16. ^ "Senate hopefuls don't inspire".  
  17. ^ Davis, Susan (June 12, 2008). "Sen. Ensign Says GOP Majority Would Be ‘Fairly Miraculous’". Wall Street Journal blog. 
  18. ^ "Ten things to know about Senate hopeful Rep. Tom Udall".  
  19. ^ "Wilson pulls $110,000 at Cheney fundraiser".  
  20. ^ Senate candidates agree on 3 NM televised debates AP, August 17, 2008
  21. ^

External links

  • Elections from the New Mexico Secretary of State
  • U.S. Congress candidates for New Mexico at Project Vote Smart
  • New Mexico, U.S. Senate from CQ Politics
  • New Mexico U.S. Senate from
  • New Mexico U.S. Senate race from 2008 Race Tracker
  • Campaign contributions from
  • Pearce (R) vs Udall (D) graph of multiple polls from
  • Official campaign websites
    • People for Pearce, Republican candidate
    • Tom Udall for Senate, Democratic candidate
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