New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall announced on Monday that he would not seek a third term next year, making him the first Democratic senator to announce his retirement this cycle. Given the state's partisan tilt, however, Democrats should be able to hold this seat without much difficulty.
Udall, a member of the famous Udall political family, got his start in politics at a young age, but it wasn't auspicious: He lost two races for the House in the 1980s, the first a dismal fourth-place finish in a Democratic primary in 1982 that was won Bill Richardson (who'd later become governor); the second, a narrow general election defeat to Republican Steven Schiff in 1998.
Udall's fortunes soon turned around, though, and he'd never lose another election. He won two terms as state attorney general starting in 1990, then finally made it to the House with a comfortable 10-point victory in 1998 in New Mexico's 3rd District—the same seat where, as a 34-year-old, he'd gotten trounced by Richardson.
Udall served in the lower chamber for a decade until longtime Republican Sen. Pete Domenici decided not to seek a seventh term in 2008. That year, amidst a Democratic wave, Udall crushed fellow Rep. Steve Pearce in a 61-39 blowout. Simultaneously, his first cousin Mark Udall, whom he'd served alongside in the House, also won a Senate seat in neighboring Colorado. (Mark is the son of legendary Arizona Rep. Mo Udall, whose brother was JFK and LBJ Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, the father of Tom.)
During his time in Congress, Udall became known as a leader on environmental issues, and in a statement explaining his decision not to seek re-election, he pledged to continue the fight against climate change. He also indentified his priorities in his remaining two years in office as working to undo Citizens United and end the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
When it came time for the GOP wave of 2014, Udall again won, albeit by a smaller 56-44 margin over Republican Allen Weh, though his fate was never seriously in doubt. In fact, the GOP hasn't won a Senate race in New Mexico since Domenici's final hurrah in 2002, and the last time a Senate seat came open here, in 2012, Republicans didn't make a major effort to contest it, as Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich defeated former Republican Rep. Heather Wilson 51-45.
This year, no Republicans had yet expressed any interest in taking Udall on, though plenty of Democrats will be interested in trying to succeed him.