- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another political dynasty is emerging, this one in the Rocky Mountains.

Two cousins, Mark and Tom Udall, are running as Democrats for U.S. Senate seats in New Mexico and Colorado this year. Mark’s father, Morris K. Udall, was an influential congressman in the 1970s and 1980s and a Democratic presidential candidate. Tom is the son of Morris’ brother, Stewart Udall, a former member of Congress and interior secretary under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The younger Udalls, both U.S. congressmen, are among the Democrats’ best hopes of expanding their 51-49 Senate majority. They also are examples of the party’s push to rebuild in Western states, which have favored Republicans in recent decades.

“There clearly is a regional swing going on,” said Gary Hart, 71, a former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate. “We’re ending a 40-year cycle of conservatism.”

The Senate seats targeted by the Udalls have been dominated by Republicans. Pete V. Domenici has represented New Mexico in the Senate since 1973, and Wayne Allard’s Colorado seat has been held by a Republican for 48 of the past 54 years.

“We have an energy this year that I have never seen before,” Tom Udall, 60, told supporters in Santa Fe last week.

Tom and Mark Udall have carried on their fathers’ legacies of promoting environmental conservation while also advocating what they call responsible development of the West’s energy resources. Both voted in 2002 against the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, and both advocate the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

They also have voted against other Bush administration policies, including repealing the estate tax, extending the anti-terrorism Patriot Act and expanding the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The Udall family has been active in politics since David King Udall, Mark and Tom’s great-grandfather, led settlers to Arizona in the 1880s and served in the territorial legislature. His son, Levi Udall, was chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Levi’s sons, Morris and Stewart, both represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives. As interior secretary, Stewart Udall brought environmental issues to the forefront in the 1960s. “Mo” Udall, who died in 1998, was chairman of what is now called the House Committee on Natural Resources and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination against Jimmy Carter in 1976.

“The Udall name is a pretty big name in Southwestern politics,” said Michael Rocca, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Republican Sen. Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, a second cousin of Mark and Tom’s, is running for re-election this year.

Tom was the first of the younger Udalls to enter electoral politics, when he lost a 1982 congressional primary. He served as New Mexico’s attorney general for eight years before being elected to Congress in 1998, the same year Mark won his Colorado seat.

In Congress, the cousins talk regularly, Tom said in an interview. “We’re very close; we’re like brothers,” he said.

Environmental issues are at the center of their congressional service. Mark Udall is co-chairman of the House caucus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Tom Udall said he focuses on a list of his father’s priorities such as conservation, bio-fuels and renewable energy sources.

“Many of those things are the same things I’m talking about today,” Tom Udall says.

The Udalls’ Republican opponents are trying to make their environmental advocacy into a liability because of high gasoline prices.

Tom Udall’s opponent, Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, 60, criticized the Democrat’s “San Francisco energy policy” during a campaign stop in Taos last week. He pledged to be Mr. Udall’s “exact opposite” by pushing solutions such as increased domestic exploration.

“High gas prices going higher, that’s the Udall brand,” Mark Udall’s opponent, former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer, 45, said two days later in Greeley, Colo.

Both Udalls said domestic exploration must be coupled with alternative energy research and conservation efforts and any energy policy needs to take into account how their constituents view the outdoors.

“Some of the traditional uses of our public lands are being pushed off; hunting, fishing, climbing, skiing, those are all important to us as Westerners,” Mark Udall, 58, said in an interview in Greeley.

The Colorado race is the more competitive, said Jennifer Duffy, the Senate editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. Mark Udall is ahead of Mr. Schaffer 49 percent to 40 percent, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey conducted June 17. A Rasmussen survey June 18 showed Tom Udall with a 58-percent-to-30-percent lead over Mr. Pearce in New Mexico.

Campaigning last week, both Udalls spoke about Iraq and economic anxiety.

“Are we going to end this war in Iraq?” Tom Udall asked supporters in Santa Fe. “Are you sick and tired of high gas prices?”

The candidates have revived the unofficial slogan they first used in 1998. “We joke a lot about ‘Vote for the Udall Nearest You’,” Tom Udall said.

Neither can remember who coined the phrase, though neither has been defeated since they began using it.

“It works,” Mark Udall said.

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