Cousins Run to Extend Family Franchise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 1998; Page A8
SANTA FE – Mention the phrase "Kennedys of the West" to members of the Udall clan, and you get a sardonic response: If we're the Kennedys, they say, where's the money?
Deep pockets or no, the family that a generation ago cut a wide political swath through Arizona and Washington, D.C., is on the move again. Four decades after the brothers Stewart and Morris went to Congress and became pivotal players in the shaping of modern environmental policy, their sons are running to continue a family tradition of public service dating to the 1880s.
Here in Santa Fe, two-term New Mexico attorney general Tom Udall – son of Stewart, who made his mark as interior secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations – is trying to win a House seat captured in a special election last year by Republican Bill Redmond. Four hundred miles to the north, in Boulder, Colo., state legislator Mark Udall – whose father, "Mo," served in the House for 30 years and ran unsuccessfully for his party's presidential nomination in 1976 – hopes to keep in Democratic hands a seat being vacated by Rep. David E. Skaggs.
And Stewart, who has been a prolific author and tireless crusader on behalf of radiation victims since leaving Washington, is happily shuttling up and down Interstate 25, an old war horse helping to plot strategy for his son. With Mo incapacitated by Parkinson's disease, Stewart is strategizing for his nephew as well.
Stewart and the rest of the Udalls may be in for a late night on Nov. 3, for both of these contests are among the most competitive in the nation, despite the two districts' Democratic traditions.
By all rights, New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District ought to be one of the West's few reliably Democratic seats. Cutting across the top of ethnically and culturally diverse northern New Mexico, the district's population is nearly 40 percent Hispanic, another 15 percent Native American and the remainder Anglo, with Democrats enjoying a nearly 2 to 1 registration edge.
Bill Richardson, with a Mexican family background, won easily here beginning with the district's creation in 1982. But Democrats stumbled when he went on to become ambassador to the United Nations and now secretary of energy.
Redmond, a Los Alamos minister, was able to exploit Democratic divisions over the special election to replace Richardson. He was even more adept at turning the candidacy of Green Party nominee Carol Miller to his advantage. With Redmond's campaign actively urging Democrats to vote Green, Miller won 17 percent of the vote and Redmond beat Democrat Eric P. Serna by 3,000 votes.
Udall is determined not to be part of a replay, despite the fact that Miller and Redmond are both running again. "We feel we've done a substantial job already of returning Democrats to the fold," said Udall, who built a relatively strong environmental record as attorney general and who has been endorsed by some Green Party members.
A recent poll suggests that Udall is succeeding in keeping down the Green vote. A Mason-Dixon survey taken in early October showed Miller getting just 7 percent of the vote, with Udall and Redmond running neck and neck. And in a recent endorsement of Udall, the Santa Fe New Mexican said votes for the Green candidate "are worse than just thrown away."
The outcome may well turn on whether Hispanics are energized to vote for an Anglo Democrat in a district that has a history as a Hispanic seat and whether Redmond's sponsorship of legislation establishing a federal study of Hispanic land grant claims will siphon off votes that are traditionally Democratic.
In Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, which has been Democratic since the Watergate class of 1974, Mark Udall's chore is not so much keeping Democratic voters in line as wooing independents. They are the largest – 39 percent – voting bloc in a district that includes granola and aroma-therapy precincts in Boulder, mountain communities to the west, and working- and middle-class suburbs of Denver to the southeast.
Like his cousin, Mark Udall is pushing the typical Democratic buttons this year: education, health care, Social Security. With Boulder a mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, Udall – an accomplished mountaineer who came close to climbing Mount Everest – also stresses growth and environmental concerns and his years as director of Colorado Outward Bound.
In a district where Skaggs only attracted 57 percent of the vote against a hard-right GOP opponent, Udall faces a moderate Republican in Boulder Mayor Bob Greenlee, a wealthy radio station owner and investment company president who has tossed almost $800,000 of his own money into the race. A 15-year veteran of the Boulder City Council, Greenlee comes across as an avuncular, no-nonsense candidate, an abortion-rights Republican who stresses "empowering people rather than government" through tax simplification and educational choice.
However, Greenlee may have stumbled when he referred to "so-called global warming" during a recent candidates' forum in Arvada. Environmental concerns rank high in the district, which includes a preeminent climate change research center at the University of Colorado.
This race, as well as Tom Udall's in New Mexico, is likely to remain in the tossup category until Election Day – one more indication that the West, now almost universally Republican, is a far different place than it was when Stewart and Mo Udall went to Washington and helped forge huge bipartisan majorities for landmark environmental legislation.
So, too, is Washington.
Mark Udall, 47, can remember "the excitement I felt sitting in a corner of Stewart's kitchen listening to my father, Stewart, Bob McNamara, Bobby Kennedy and Justice [William O.] Douglas talk about the issues of the day and there was a sense of optimism and sense of involvement and a sense of meaning."
Tom Udall, 50, also remembers those meetings, and hopes two cousins from the West can recapture some of that spirit. "Mark and I," he said, "are very much rooted in the same tradition and care about many of the same things."
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