Pete Domenici Dies

by Staff Reporter / Sep 13, 2017 / comments


Pete Domenici Has Died

Former New Mexico U.S. Senator Pete Domenici died this morning at the age of 85 at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, as confirmed by multiple media sources and family members. Domenici represented New Mexico in the United States Senate from 1972 till 2008, making him the longest serving U.S. Senator from New Mexico.

During his career, Domenici who was a Republican rose in the ranks of the Senate to eventually serving as Chairman or Ranking Minority Member of the Budget Committee, depending on which party controlled the Senate. He also rose to be the Republican ranking member of the committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. He was “also a member of the U.S. Senate Committees on Appropriations and Indian Affairs.

These committee appointments placed Domenici in powerful positions to benefit New Mexico through directing funding to Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and military installations in the state. During this period, Domenici earned the nickname “St. Pete” for the largess he helped secure. Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat who served with Domenici for much of his tenure, also served on several of the same committees and the two were known for working closely together to ensure New Mexico benefited.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Domenici had recently undergone abdominal surgery and had been in intensive care.

Domenici announced on October 4, 2007, his decision not to seek re-election to the Senate in 2008 for health reasons. Democrat Tom Udall succeeded him in the Senate.

Although broadly respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, not all of Senator Domenici’s career was without controversy. Domenici became embroiled in a scandal over the 2006 election for the 1st congressional district in Albuquerque, where he was working to support then Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Domenici placed a call to then U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in what was perceived as an effort to push the U.S. Attorney's office to indict Democrats associated with Wilson’s opponent. The call was considered inappropriate behavior and in 2008, the Senate Ethics Committee admonished Domenici for “inappropriately” contacting the U.S. Attorney over an ongoing investigation.

In 2013 it was also revealed that during the 1970s Domenici had fathered an illegitimate child with Michelle Laxalt, a 24-year-old Republican staffer and lobbyist, the daughter of Republican Senator Paul Laxalt. Domenici, then 80, acknowledged the affair and his son saying he was "very sorry" for his behavior.

Despite these problems, Domenici remained very popular across party lines with many New Mexicans. He will be remembered for his ability to bring federal programs and dollars to New Mexico, his advocacy for the mentally ill, and his work on water issues in the western U.S.

A public memorial is being planned but details are not yet available.