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Daughter of former GOP senator Pete Domenici seeks to take on Heinrich

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ROSWELL — The daughter of the last Republican to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Senate is looking to follow in her father’s footsteps.

Nella Domenici, a longtime senior financial advisor and the daughter of former Sen. Pete Domenici, filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 16, which will allow her to raise and spend money on a campaign against three-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich.

On Jan. 17, the campaign confirmed Domenici’s intentions in a press release, in which she emphasized her family’s deep roots in New Mexico while assailing elected officials in Santa Fe and Washington, D.C., for failing to deliver for their constituents.

“The cost of living is up, we have a crime and drug crisis, the border is wide open, and our public education system is leaving our kids behind,” the release said.

Nella Domenici’s father, Pete Domenici, was a U.S. Senator from 1973 until his retirement in 2009 and was known for his interest in energy policy, budget issues and championing mental healthcare. He died in 2017 at age 85.

A wife, mother of two children and stepmother to four others, Nella Domenici is currently on the board of directors for Cognizant Technology Solutions, a multinational technology company headquartered in New Jersey.

Her LinkedIn page says that this month, Nella Domenici left her position on the board of directors and audit and risk committee for Alliance Bernstein, a Tennessee-based asset management firm.

Her LinkedIn page also indicates that Nella Domenici has worked as a senior finance and operations executive, and sat on the board of directors for scores of financial firms based in the Northeast U.S., including four years as chief financial officer for the Connecticut-based asset management firm Bridgewater Associates.

In terms of education, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Georgetown University in 1982 and from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1987 with a Juris Doctorate. In 1993, Domenici earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

Despite having never before run for office, Nella Domenici said in the release that she believes her résumé provides her with the skill set needed to represent New Mexico and bolster its economy.

“My professional experience and education enable me to deeply understand inflation, taxation, setting and managing huge budgets, and creating incentives and benefits that serve employees and attract new businesses and entrepreneurs,” she said in the release.

Domenici’s entrance into the race for the nomination comes a week after Manuel Gonzales, a former Bernalillo County Sheriff, announced he would seek the Republican nomination.

Gonzales, previously a Democrat, was sheriff from 2013 until 2018. He ran unsuccessfully in 2021 for the party’s nomination for mayor against Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

In addition to Gonzales and Domenici, the Federal Election Commission website says Benjamin Luna, a conservative activist from Alamogordo, filed statements of organizations that will allow them to raise and spend money in the race for Senate.

All three would need to file in March to get on the ballot to compete in the June 4 Republican primary in New Mexico. The winner would then go on to face Heinrich in November.

Two candidates, not registered with any political party, have filed to run as Independents. They are Jerry Rose of Portales and Chick Cameron Alton Sr. of Albuquerque.

Both parties were quick to respond to Domenici’s announcement. It was welcomed by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the campaign arm for Senate Republicans.

“Nella’s experience at the highest levels of business, commitment to securing our border, and passion for improving education make her a strong candidate to flip this seat,” Daines said in a statement posted on the NRSC website.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico offered a preview of attacks they are likely to level against her on the campaign trail.

“If Nella Domenici survives the dogfight, her close ties to Wall Street and her work for a mega-hedge fund that laid off American workers while investing in China will all face extensive scrutiny as Republicans’ primary intensifies,” Jessica Valasquez, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said in a press release.

Heinrich announced his intention to run for a fourth term last May.

In 2012, Henrich prevailed over former Republican U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson 51-45%. He was reelected in a three-way contest in 2018, receiving 54% of the vote against Republican Mick Rich and former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian. Rich and Johnson took 31% and 15% of the vote, respectively.

National independent political observers, such as the Cook Political Report, have deemed Heinrich an overwhelming favorite to win reelection.

Since the retirement of Domenici’s father in 2009, both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators have been Democrats, and the party also controls all three of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats also control all statewide offices and majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Heinrich holds a commanding lead in fundraising, taking in $6.1 million this cycle. That is compared to $3,049 in Luna’s war chest and the $3,267 Rose has collected. None of the other candidates have any amount listed.

But Domenici’s campaign argues conditions are ripe in New Mexico for a Republican victory, citing internal polling which says 70% of those surveyed are dissatisfied with the country’s direction.

“There is massive dissatisfaction with the economy, our border, and the misguided policies from Washington that have made life more difficult for New Mexico families,” the release said.

Paul Smith, a spokesperson for Nella Domenici’s campaign, said in an email that the statement of the organization filed Tuesday did not include financial information, which will be released in April after the current campaign fundraising quarter ends.

“Fundraising will be a heavy emphasis of the campaign, and Nella and her husband Pat are fully committed to this race with their time, efforts and resources,” Smith wrote.

By Alex Ross

Roswell Daily Record

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