Web extra: Listen to Tom Udall discuss the issues in a telephone interview with SFR Editor Julia Goldberg:

Republican Pete Domenici's retirement from the US Senate seat he has held since 1972 threw open New Mexico's political landscape. All three of the state's house congressional representatives gave up their positions for a shot at moving to the Senate.

Among them is Tom Udall, who is in his fifth term representing the state's 3rd Congressional District and who served two terms as the state's attorney general prior to that. As attorney general, Udall was accessible and proactive in facing problems such as DWI, consumer fraud and domestic violence.

As a congressman, Udall has stood up for constituents on a variety of fronts. He was a voice against the USA Patriot Act and the Iraq War. He supports the State Children's Health Insurance Program and fought against expanded eavesdropping abilities for US spy agencies. He voted to lower interest rates for college students, to increase the minimum wage and he has been a voluble voice for veterans' rights.

Most recently, he voted against Congress' $700 billion bailout bill. In our discussion on this subject, Udall says he voted against the bailout because, among other facets, it doesn't include protection for taxpayers, any provisions for homeowners or a plan to correct the mistakes that created the situation we're in right now. Udall plans to fight for these principals in the Senate and believes the plan that was passed will have to be revisited.

Udall's opponent, Steve Pearce, also voted against the bailout. But in most areas, there are stark differences in viewpoints between the two congressmen. We endorsed Pearce, who represents the 2nd District, in the June Republican primary against Heather Wilson (who represents the 1st District), because we found him to be clear on his points, accessible and willing to articulate his views.

But we don't agree with those views and believe Pearce's positions are both too conservative and too reflective of the Bush administration to serve all of New Mexico. Pearce supports continuing the Iraq War. He uses the term "socialized medicine," presumably in reference to the notion of universal health care. He does not support reproductive freedom for women. Further, he prioritizes drilling and expansion of nuclear energy in his energy platform, whereas Udall makes it clear he will push for a more rounded energy policy that also stresses alternative energy. Udall believes in, and plans to work for, making New Mexico a leader in creating jobs and growing new technologies in the energy sector.

Udall recognizes New Mexico will face challenges in the coming years, given the difficult economic times ahead and the turnover in our congressional delegation. He already has spoken with the leaders of the Democratic Party, including US Sen. Jeff Bingaman, to seek assurances that the state will receive help when it's needed. And he's committed to looking after the state's needs, while continuing to grapple with the major problems facing the nation.

Unlike Pearce, Udall has represented the entire state before, and he's proven he can continue to get things done, even when the executive administration, be it of the state or the nation, is run by a different political party.

When asked how his service in the Senate might differ from his role in representing the 3rd District, Udall says he plans to proceed in the same vein he always has:
"The rule I've always applied with my public service is to do the right thing…for New Mexico and do the right thing for the nation…I'm going to continue with that same way of approaching things, to get to the bottom of what's really happening and then do the right thing."

We think Udall has the public-service record to back up his words, and we urge all New Mexicans to elect him to the Senate.