Former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., came with his son Pete Jr. to Las Vegas on a recent day to promote the son’s gubernatorial campaign.
However, neither the senator nor his son is a stranger in these parts. Sen. Domenici was considered the driving force in getting the millions of dollars to build the Ivan Hilton Science and Engineering Building at Highlands University. Pete Jr. is the attorney in a local land grant dispute.
“Let me introduce myself, I’m the older Pete, and (pointing at his son) that’s Pete the younger. Now’s the time when the youngsters go to work and the oldsters retire,” said Domenici, who retired in early 2009.
Domenici said that even though he no longer represents New Mexico on the Senate floor, his schedule is full.
“I’m trying to retire, but it’s pretty hard, so I still work. I still live in Washington, but I get home a lot, and I’m going to get home more. Then hopefully my wife and I will move back to New Mexico to stay,” he said.
Domenici thanked the crowd for sending him to the U.S. Senate for 36 years.
“Six elections,” Domenici said to applause. “Four years before that in the Albuquerque city government. That makes 40 years of my life given to the people " to the people I love.”
Domenici said in all his years he never forgot about the people of Las Vegas.
“And I guarantee my son, Pete, will not forget about you. I just wish he spoke a little more Spanish,” Domenici said to laughter. “In my 36 years in the U.S. Senate, there was always time to come up to northern New Mexico and experience this special culture and its traditions. Whenever I had a chance to be helpful, you were always very appreciative.”
Domenici said while he was serving, he always tried to do things right.
“The country did well for part of the time I was there, and now it’s not doing so well. I have eight children, my second -born is a son, his name is Pete. He’s my wonderful dear friend, he’s a lawyer, who has run his business for a long time. He has now made up his mind that he wants to serve the people in the state that he loves. He told me he wanted to make New Mexico better, and I said, ‘If that’s what you want, let’s try.”
Domenici said when the election comes in November, “everyone can vote, but in the election we’re worried about, only Republicans can vote.”
The Democratic and Republican primaries are June 1.
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The younger Domenici said this governorship will change the future of New Mexico.
“Whoever is elected changes your life, touches your life, your community, your county. We know who the Democrats are going to run, and we know what’s going to happen if she’s elected. We’ve all experienced that for eight years,” the younger Domenici said.
He was referring to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
He said many government agencies are in Las Vegas and are valuable and irreplaceable resources.
“This governor has jeopardized the welfare of state employees by his choices. He has put political employees in office to look over the shoulder of longtime state employees, so they can’t do their jobs. People have to check with the governor’s office before they do what they’re paid to do,” the candidate said.
The younger Domenici said many of the decisions of the past eight years of Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration have put the state in its current position.
“The state doesn’t have enough money. That doesn’t mean rank-and-file, hard-working employees should bear the burden of excesses, choices and the legacy of this administration,” Domenici said.
Domenici said workers who rely on a government paycheck are terrified to speak out when they see corruption.
“We’re not going to have that happen anymore. We’re going to protect state employees, we will make it where state employees can speak out. Many state employees will not come to an event like this. They’d be worried about coming here, lest it get back to this tyrannical administration,” Domenici said.
Domenici said while out campaigning he is often “pulled into a corner by people who tell him they are scared.”
“State employees’ jobs have been jeopardized, and their freedom of expression has been jeopardized by the Richardson administration. My administration will be frugal with your money, take care of our employees, and let people say what they need to say. If I’m governor, and a state employee doesn’t like what I’m doing, I am not going to threaten them. I say, ‘Go talk to the Optic and say what you want to say, that’s the way it should be.’ But that’s not New Mexico right now,” Domenici said.