The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Longtime GOP senator Pete Domenici dies

 

September 14, 2017

MCT photo: Chuck Kennedy

Senator Pete Domenici, center, at a news conference in 2005.

Pete Domenici was a longtime U.S. senator, but in New Mexico, many called him friend.

Domenici, 85, died Wednesday of complications from abdominal surgery.

The Republican was known for his bi-partisan deal making and putting his home state first in Washington, protecting funds for Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories and helping to keep Cannon Air Force Base open in the face of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process.

"Pete Domenici was the guy who saved Cannon Air Force Base," said Curry County Republican Party Chairman Rube Render.

"He's the reason that Cannon Air Force Base is here. At the time you're talking about, Domenici pulled a lot of water in the U.S. Senate. He was the senior senator from the state of New Mexico, had been there forever, had been the chairman of the budget committee in the Senate."

Bank of Clovis President Randy Harris - a member of the Committee of Fifty, which is dedicated to supporting CAFB - said Domenici had a lot to do with saving Cannon long before anyone wanted it shuttered.

"Cannon was kept because of 50 years of effort, and Sen. Domenici was a part of things that were done like expanding the bombing range; things like building a tower; things like improving the infrastructure out at Cannon Air Force Base," Harris said.

"All those things were done for years before there was a BRAC commission."

Domenici was "the action guy" to Harris, "the guy that you could go to, you could explain the positives and the negatives and the need for something, and he would go to make it happen. He didn't want to sit around and talk about it. He wanted to get it done, and that's what I admired about him the most."

His 22 years as a high-ranking member of the Senate budget committee, along with a reputation as a "straight shooter," gained Domenici respect from Render.

"If you asked him a question, he answered it, which you can't say about a lot of politicians," he said.

Harris recalled visiting Domenici in Washington as part of the Committee of Fifty.

"He felt no pressure with us, because he knew we were being upfront and honest with him. We were just simply saying, 'Here's the need that we see for Cannon.'"

Through those trials, Harris saw an ally in Domenici, who referred to his constituents as friends.

"I remember him one day, very clearly, saying, 'You guys are just good friends.' I remember taking a photograph with him, and I have that to this very day," he said.

Domenici valued Harris' time so much that he had an impromptu meeting with him on a train ride to Maryland.

"He said, 'Randy, I gotta go vote, and I don't have time, so just jump with me and we'll get on the train and go under the tunnel over to where I can go vote, and we'll talk on the way,'" Harris said.

That memory is one of many that solidifies Domenici in Harris' mind as "an honorable man that cared about New Mexico, cared about our country, and was a man of action who wanted to make positive changes and leave things better than the way he found them."

 

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