May 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Sleeper GOP Senate candidate debuts first ad

Sen Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) listens during a hearing

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) speaks during a roundtable on gun legislation. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Nella Domenici, the daughter of the last Republican senator of New Mexico, released her first ad Tuesday in her uphill bid to defeat Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich.

Why it matters: With her name ID and personal wealth, national Republicans see the race as a sleeper that may also force Democrats to spend resources defending what is considered a safe seat.

  • Democrats are already having to defend nine vulnerable Senate seats this cycle.

Driving the news: Domenici's first ad is part of a half-million ad buy that focuses on her family's legacy in the state along with her own biography as a working mother.

  • The ad's narrator states: "With Nella's dad serving our state, her mom had her hands full. Nella saw first-hand, those values are timeless."
  • Pete Domenici was New Mexico's senator from 1972-2008, overlapping with President Biden's time in the Senate.
  • The ad also highlights Domenici's climb to become the chief finance officer for Bridgewater Associates — the world's largest hedge fund.

Zoom in: Despite loaning her campaign $500,000 after she entered the race earlier this year, Domenici was at a significant financial disadvantage at the end of March, according to the most recent financial disclosures.

  • Her campaign ended with $1 million cash on hand compared to Heinrich's $4.4 million.
  • The campaign believes that it can still be competitive given that it's less expensive to run a statewide race in New Mexico.
  • Heinrich won re-election in 2018 by 25 points, although libertarian Gary Johnson took a significant number of votes away from the Republican candidate by getting 15% of the vote.

Between the lines: Domenici will be likely able to leverage corporate connections to raise big money as David McCormick, the former CEO of Bridgewater, has in his Pennsylvania Senate race this cycle.

  • Her half-brother, Adam Laxalt, has also been active in politics as the former attorney general of Nevada and recent campaigns for the Senate and governor's office there.
  • The GOP isn't counting on Domenici to win back majority of the Senate, but was happy to land her as a strong recruit for a hard campaign.
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