- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The unpopular leadership in Washington quickly became the focus Thursday night as first-term U.S. Sen. Tom Udall squared off with Republican challenger Allen Weh in their first and only televised debate.

Weh, a retired Marine colonel and longtime businessman, challenged Udall for consistently voting in favor of President Barack Obama’s initiatives, including his effort to overhaul health care.

Weh went on to highlight a series of controversies that have plagued the Obama administration, from the IRS’ targeting of certain political groups to the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans.

“This has been a failed presidency, and the senator should have, could have, but didn’t stand up against President Barack Obama on more than one occasion. There’ve been numerous occasions,” Weh said. “The feckless leadership has been terrible in Washington.”

Taking a page from his campaign ads, Weh said voting to send Udall back to Washington would be a vote for Obama’s policies.

Udall defended his votes and said he would take on the president or anyone else if it meant protecting the interests of New Mexicans. He said he stood up when the federal government threatened to take away millions of dollars in oil and natural gas royalties and he has worked to bring funding to New Mexico’s federal laboratories and military bases.

“This election isn’t about changing Washington. It’s about doing something for New Mexico,” Udall said. “I stand up and get up every day to do what’s right for New Mexico.”

Thursday’s pre-recorded debate touched on topics including job creation in New Mexico, drought, reforms within the embattled Albuquerque Police Department and immigration.

Both candidates said they supported some kind of pathway for the millions of people who are in the country illegally. Udall said the Senate will continue to push its immigration reform bill, while Weh said meaningful border security will need to be a part of the equation.

Polls show Udall in the lead with just days remaining, but Weh has been closing the gap. The election is Tuesday.

The key for the candidates Thursday was to avoid any major gaffs, which they did.

“There will be some undecideds who will be watching the debate. Therefore it is an important event for both candidates,” said Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff.

The jabs started to fly in a flurry of emails even before the debate was aired.

Udall’s campaign accused Weh of being out of touch with New Mexicans and supporting policies that would benefit millionaires, a point the senator pressed throughout the debate. Weh’s campaign said Udall was a millionaire himself and has spent years in Washington living a life of luxury and privilege.

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