Let's Talk Sense...

Saturday, September 9, 2000 Volume XXV, No. 26
Roswell, New Mexico

In this issue:

Senator Pete Domenici
New Mexico's Longest-Serving Senator

· Classes 1, 2 and 3 in the US Senate
· The Election of Pete Domenici, 1972
· Domenici's Predecessors
· Breaking the Record
Classes 1, 2 and 3 in the US Senate

Following the first federal elections in 1788, and in compliance with Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution, the United States Senate was divided into three "classes." Members of Class 1 served for two years, those in Class 2 served for four years, and those fortunate enough to be assigned to Class 3 received full six-year terms. There- after of course, six-year terms were fully implemented for all classes.

[On a personal note, I use the term "fortunate" because I know from personal experience that is the way elected politicians view it. I learned this when I tried to muster support for a constitutional amendment to "stagger" terms in elections for the New Mexico Senate. The reason being the same as the US Constitution's: so that the people might be able to effect change in the body every two years. A few senators were interested at first, but, as they thought about it, only if they could somehow be guaranteed they would be among the half running for a four-year term at the outset, instead of a two-year term.]

Each state has memberships in two of the three classes, with 33 senators in Classes 1 and 2, while 34 senate seats belong to Class 3.

In January 1912, New Mexico's senators were assigned to Classes 1 and 2. A month later, Arizona's were made members of Classes 1 and 3.

The Election of Pete Domenici, 1972

By 1972 New Mexico had not elected a Republican senator in 38 years. That last victory, remarkably, had come in a terrible Republican year, 1934, when the GOP had won only 8 senate races while losing 28. Bronson M. Cutting, a nominal Republican, supporter of FDR, and owner of the Santa Fe New Mexican, had been narrowly re-elected in a hard-fought campaign, defeating Congressman Dennis Chavez by 1,284 votes. That was the Class 1 seat.

The Class 2 seat had been in Democrat hands even longer, since 1925. In late 1971, it was being held by four-term incumbent, Clinton P. Anderson. He then announced his retirement and, ultimately, 33 candidates entered the race to succeed him.

In 1970 Pete Domenici had suffered his first and only defeat, losing the race for governor to Bruce King. Entering the 1972 senate, he crushed former Governor David F. Cargo by an astounding 3 to 1 margin in the Republican Primary. He then faced Democrat Jack Daniels of Hobbs in the general election. Daniels had won a bizarre 25-candidate primary with just under 30% of the vote.

All the built-in advantages were with Daniels, as they still are with Democrats in New Mexico today, but the Domenici campaign was simply better---and it didn't hurt that McGovern was losing the state by 26 points. Domenici won by 8. The rest is history.

Domenici's Predecessors

Pete Domenici was sworn in on January 3, 1973 as the sixth member of the New Mexico senate seat in Class 2. Most of his predecessors had achieved some degree of recognition outside the borders of the state.

The very first occupant, Albert B. Fall, sworn in in 1912, served until 1921 when he was appointed Secretary of the Interior by his former senate buddy, the newly elected President Warren G. Harding.

Secretary Fall went on to sell oil leases at Teapot Dome in Wyoming for $409,000. He became quite famous in his time as a result.

Fall was followed by another Republican, and the last GOP senator to hold this seat prior to Domenici. Holm O. Bursum (ancestor of Holm III and Holm IV of Socorro) was appointed to succeed Fall, then won election on his own.

Democrat Sam G. Bratton followed Bursom. In 1933 Carl A. Hatch was appointed to succeed Bratton. He was subsequently elected, and served until 1949. Hatch became the author of the Hatch Act, which limits the political activities of civil servants and members of the US Armed Forces.

Next came LBJ's close ally, the aforementioned Clinton P. Anderson, elected in 1948. He had served as a congressman and as Secretary of Agriculture in the Truman Administration.

Breaking the Record

When Senator Bronson M. Cutting died suddenly in a plane crash on May 6, 1935, 63 days into his second term, it fell to Governor Clyde Tingley to appoint his successor. Tingley, a Democrat, gave the nod to Dennis M. Chavez, the man Cutting had just defeated the previous November.

Chavez served until his death on November 18, 1962, a total of 27 years, six months and seven days.

On July 11th of this year, Senator Pete Domenici became the longest- serving United States Senator in New Mexico history.

Both Chavez, and Clinton Anderson served longer in congress than Domenici has to this point. Chavez had two full terms in the House of Representatives. Anderson was elected to three terms, but stepped down in his fifth year to take a cabinet position.

Domenici will pass Anderson in the late winter of 2002, and, after winning his sixth term, will become the longest-serving member of congress in the history of the Land of Enchantment on July 11, 2004.

Domenici is easily the most successful political leader in state history and is one of the most effective members of the US Senate in the history of that august body.

It is difficult to imagine where our state would be without Pete Domenici. New Mexico brings home more than 1.8 dollars for every dollar going into the federal treasury from our state, and Senator Domenici plays a major role in that. Given our poverty, our dependence on government to start with, and the resolute unwillingness on the part of legislative leaders to change numerous state policies, we need to pray that Senator Domenici is able to serve another 27 years.

In the next issue....
· Who's going to win?
The Electoral College final forecast 55 days out
· Man Bites Dog
LTS...endorses Lieberman (an archival story)