Sen. Pete Domenici's Seat Risks a Democratic Takeover

Adding to the string of Republican retirees, Sen. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) plans to announce his retirement today in Albequrque, according to Party officials. Domenici is the fifth Republican not seeking re-election this cycle, adding to the pressure Republicans feel to fill these empty seats.

Domenici’s six-term, 36-year political career ends due to health concerns, according to an AP report. He suffered nerve damage in 1999, then underwent surgery in 2000.

The 75-year-old Domenci is currently the top Republican on the Energy Committee and has done significant work on energy legislation. He was formerly chairman of the Budget Committee, helping fashion the 1997 balanced budget bill with former President Bill Clinton.

New Mexico is considered a highly competitive state, having opted for President Bush in 2004 by only one percent.

Most recently, Domenci faced an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, along with Republican Rep. Heather Wilson (N.M.), for his role in the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. Some have speculated this stress contributed to the decision not to run again. Domenici was first elected in 1972 and a line of hopefuls, like Wilson, hope to snag his Senate seat though Democrats, like Rep. Tom Udall, are also vying for it.

Domenici has been an influential Republican leader but has broken from the majority on the issues of immigration and the war. He’s advocated troop withdrawal, though would not vote with the Democrats for a timetable.

Republican Senators Wayne Allard (Col.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and John Warner (Virg.) have all announced they will not seek re-election as well. Sen. Larry Craig, after pleading guilty to lewd conduct for his behavior in a men’s restroom, will have an open seat as well.  Democrats’ have a significant chance to expand their majority with these absences.