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POLITICO: Daughter of former GOP senator launches Senate run in New Mexico

01/16/2024 08:38 PM EST


The daughter of New Mexico’s last Republican senator is making a run for her father’s old seat — raising GOP hopes that they can expand their Senate map.


Nella Domenici, a former chief financial officer of Bridgewater Associates, will launch a campaign Wednesday against Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich.


New Mexico is not swingy territory. Joe Biden won the state by 10 points in 2020. A Republican has not held a Senate seat there in 15 years. Heinrich won his last reelection in 2018 by more than 30 points.


But her father’s legacy gives the GOP a credible recruit in a region that could not otherwise be in play. And with decades of experience in the finance industry, Domenici comes with a deep fundraising network and willingness to put in some of her own funds. She will give her campaign an initial investment of $500,000.


Domenici brings a powerful name. The late Sen. Pete Domenici was a giant in New Mexico politics. He was first elected to the Senate in 1972, the same year as Biden, and was in office until 2009 — the longest-serving senator in the state’s history. He was known for his work on budget and energy policy and had a prominent bipartisan streak.


“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.” Domenici said in a statement shared first with POLITICO.


She also has the backing of the Senate GOP campaign arm, which encouraged her to jump in.


“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,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in a statement.

Former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a former Democrat, is also running in the GOP primary.


New Mexico is in no way central to Republicans’ hopes of retaking the Senate. Their top targets are West Virginia, Ohio and Montana — three Democratic-held states that former President Donald Trump won in 2020. And with Manchin’s retirement, West Virginia alone seems poised to hand them control of the Senate if they retake the White House.


But Republicans are also optimistic about Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona — all more crucial targets than New Mexico.


Still Domenici could help the GOP widen the map in a reach state. It will prove especially strategic if they can force Democrats to spend money there.


Heinrich, who is in line to be the next top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, already had $3.2 million banked by the end of last quarter.


Domenici’s campaign plans to zero in on his record on oil and gas policy and make the claim that Heinrich has been insufficiently supportive of the industry, which makes up a huge chunk of the state’s revenue. Heinrich has called for a shift toward more renewable energy sources to compete better in global markets.


Democrats said they are confident in Heinrich’s reelection and note that Domenici will have to emerge from what could be a heated primary.


“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,” Democratic Party of New Mexico Chair Jessica Velasquez said.


Republicans often sense opportunity in New Mexico only to be thwarted on Election Day. But they have seen encouraging recent shifts in Hispanic support, particularly in some parts of the Southwest. And other data suggest the state might be worth an investment.


A poll in November of New Mexico, commissioned by the NRSC, found Biden up 1 point over Trump at 45 percent. A Democrat led a Republican on a generic Senate ballot by 1 point as well, with 43 percent.


That’s a notable jump from similar NRSC polling in May that found Biden leading Trump by 7 points at 48 percent. A Democrat led a Republican on a generic Senate ballot by 5 points, 46 percent to 41 percent.


That movement encouraged Republicans to try to land a candidate who could mount a strong challenge to Heinrich.


Domenici was born in Albuquerque. She attended Georgetown University for her undergraduate and law degrees as well as Harvard Business School, from which she graduated while nine months pregnant.


She worked at Bridgewater with another top Senate recruit: David McCormick in Pennsylvania. And she has also held positions at Credit Suisse and Citadel Investment group.

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