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Pete Domenici

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Pete Domenici Obituary
Domenici, Former U.S. Senator Pete

Albuquerque, NM â€" Former U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici, the longest serving Senator in New Mexico history, died of complications from abdominal surgery on September 13, 2017 at the age of 85.

Domenici, a fierce advocate for New Mexico, rose to prominence on the national political stage serving as the powerful Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee during the tumultuous budget battles of the 1980s and 1990s. He was known as an expert on fiscal issues and served as President Reagan's point man on Senate budget matters. He later served as Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee where he championed nuclear energy and advanced scientific research.

Pete Vichi Domenici was born in Albuquerque on May 7, 1932, to Cherubino and Alda (Vichi) Domenici. He helped his father run the family grocery business. He graduated in 1950 from St. Mary's High School in Albuquerque and graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1954.

As an athlete, Domenici pitched for St. Joseph's college and then for the University of New Mexico where he was all-conference pitcher for two years. He went on to pitch one season for the Albuquerque Dukes, a farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers but gave it up because, he said, "my curve ball didn't have enough bite." He then taught mathematics at Garfield Junior High in Albuquerque before attending the University of Denver law school where he received a law degree in 1958.

He entered Albuquerque politics and was elected to the city commission in 1966, eventually becoming mayor. In 1972, he ran successfully for the U.S. Senate, defeating Democrat Jack Daniels, 54-46. He would be reelected five more times before leaving the Senate in 2008 after being diagnosed with an incurable brain affliction.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he knew Domenici "as smart, hard-working and dedicated - and as a strong advocate for his home state of New Mexico." Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Domenici a "larger-than-life figure who clearly relished the chance to serve and get things done. I learned so much from him, not just on budget issues but also how to be truly committed to your craft. He remains a great inspiration to me."

First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, Domenici served for six terms before retiring in 2008. Through the years, Domenici developed a reputation as a straightforward legislator willing to work with colleagues and constituents from both sides of the aisle to achieve his legislative priorities. His conviction to honest budgeting led one colleague to suggest he suffered from "a case of terminal responsibility."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, once said: "There's no one in the Senate, or in the House of Representatives, that can make the case like Pete Domenici can, and make it as convincingly and as powerfully as he does. And whenever he does, the U.S. Senate just responds overwhelmingly."

Considered a master legislative tactician, Domenici devoted much of his energy in the 1990s in working toward a balanced budget. After several failed attempts, the Senate approved the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which led to the first balanced federal budget in 30 years in 1998, and it remained in balance through 2001.

Domenici, is credited with numerous legislative achievements over his 36 years of Senate service including helping to pass the Reagan tax cuts in 1982, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 (during which he partnered with Senator Kennedy), and passage of the "Megatons to Megawatts" program to secure fissionable materials following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

A strong supporter of federal scientific research, Domenici was also one of the first members of Congress to recognize the potential significance of human genome research and worked to provide funding for the government's Human Genome Projects as early as 1987.

Pete Domenici was a ferocious advocate for New Mexico, using his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to successfully support needed projects throughout the state. He was a stalwart defender of the DOE national laboratories, Los Alamos and Sandia, among others, as well as military installations in New Mexico, working successfully to defeat efforts to close Kirtland and Cannon Air Force Bases. He is responsible for the location of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia.

Throughout his career, Domenici advocated policies to diversify the New Mexico economy and create opportunities for growth. He assisted communities with economic development projects, and spearheaded small business development councils to promote job growth. He fought for years to establish a port-of-entry at Santa Teresa. He was a champion for the Character Counts education initiative in all New Mexico schools.

Senator Domenici worked to protect and promote New Mexico's rich multicultural and natural heritage. He authored the federal program for maintaining the historic acequia irrigation system. He spearheaded efforts to establish the Petroglyph National Monument and protect the Valles Caldera. In addition to working to protect the works of American Indian artists and craftsmen from counterfeiters, the Senator funding to establish the Hispanic Cultural Center and Museum in Albuquerque.

His fierce devotion to his state resulted in many New Mexicans referring to him as "Saint Pete." Upon his retirement in 2007, one journalist suggested his fingerprints "are on every corner of New Mexico."

Pete Domenici was preceded in death by his parents, and sisters, Mary Stratman, Karlene Guillon, and Sister Marianella Domenici.

Senator Domenici is survived by his sisters, Thelma Domenici and Rose Ann Domenici; his wife of 59 years, Nancy Burk Domenici and their eight children: Lisa, Peter, Nella, Clare, David, Nanette, Paula and Helen. He also has a son, Adam Laxalt, who currently serves as the Attorney General of Nevada. Domenici has 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

An active grandfather, he traveled around the country to attend sports events, performances, graduations, and weddings. He was a passionate Nationals and Lobos baseball fan. He loved dove and quail hunting in Southern New Mexico, as well as Sunday dinners with family and friends.

A Public Celebration of Senator Domenici's life will be held at Isotopes Stadium (1601 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE, Albuquerque) at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 16, 2017. This event is open to the public.

The family has also arranged for a Viewing at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 15, 2017 followed by a Rosary at 7:00 p.m., both at Our Lady of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima is located at 4020 Lomas Blvd, Albuquerque. A Funeral Service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 16, 2017 also at Our Lady of Fatima. In lieu of flowers, the Domenici family has requested that donations be made to one or both of the two non-profit organizations listed below or to a non-profit of your choice. National Alliance on Mental Illness, Albuquerque Chapter, namialbuquerque.org or Lewy Body Dementia Association, www.lbda.org. Please visit our online guestbook for Senator Pete Domenici at

Published in Albuquerque Journal on Sept. 14, 2017
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