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Pete Domenici, New Mexico's longest-serving senator, dies at 85

Chris Ramirez and Colton Shone
September 14, 2017 06:50 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- He was a political giant and a Washington stalwart who helped change the landscape for the nation and New Mexico.

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Former Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici died Wednesday morning from an incurable brain disease. The state's longest-serving senator passed away at UNM Hospital with his family at his side. He was 85.

Domenici's decades of service improved the lives here in New Mexico. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, Domenici rose to be one of the leading voices on Capitol Hill on energy policy -- in particular nuclear power -- and a power broker on the federal budget.

He also served alongside seven U.S. presidents. In 2007, he announced he would not seek re-election when his term ended two years later.

Domenici was born in Albuquerque on May 7, 1932. Growing up, he worked in his father's grocery business and graduated from St. Mary's High School. He went to the University of New Mexico to earn an education degree.

He led a life of public service, first as a school teacher at Garfield Junior High. He went north and received a law degree from the University of Denver in 1954.

Domenici got started in politics when he was elected to the Albuquerque City Commission in 1966. One year later, he became the chairman. Today, that would be the equivalent of Albuquerque mayor. 

After he lost a run for governor in 1970, Domenici was elected to the U.S. Senate for New Mexico in 1972 at the age of 40. He served in the Senate for six terms. He sat on several committees such as Energy, Homeland Security, even securing the top spot as the federal budget chairman during the Reagan era.

Domenici notably butted heads with President Ronald Reagan over economic policy, even telling him no to raising the federal debt ceiling.

He was able to bring in billions of dollars for the state for Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, as well as New Mexico's military bases. Domenici even wrote the book on nuclear power titled "A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy," which was published in 2004.

Domenici's family released this statement on the senator's passing:

This is a difficult time for the entire Domenici family. We have suffered a great loss.

Our father loved New Mexico and worked for its people. He devoted his life to fighting for them. He worked for everyone, in every corner in the state. And as much as he did he always felt there was even more he could do. If it involved a need in New Mexico, Pete Domenici was always ready to 'get to work.'

So, while we mourn our father's passing, we celebrate his life and his many achievements and feel tremendous gratitude to his dedicated supporters, exceptional staff and the constituents of his beloved state.

And we want all to know how deeply appreciative of the hundreds of messages of condolences and support we have received today. We thank you.

We are currently working on future arrangements and will announce them when finalized.

Domenici and his wife Nancy had eight children.

Isotopes Park is hosting a public memorial for Domenici this Saturday. It begins at 3 p.m.

For more on the Legacy of Pete Domenici, click here.

C-Span has a number of clips of Domenici in Congress at this link.  C-Span spoke with him in a long interview before his retirement in January 2009:

Credits

Chris Ramirez and Colton Shone

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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