By Barry Massey: The Associated Press
SANTA FE — Retiring U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici made a final appearance before the Legislature on Monday and called for an end to extremist partisan politics.
“We are in danger of losing our ability to move forward as a nation because of destructive personality-driven partisan politics,” Domenici said in a speech to a joint session of the Legislature.
“Let me leave this warning with you: America’s democracy is in trouble unless we put aside the political extremes and work toward our common goals.”
Domenici, a Republican elected in 1972, is the longest serving senator in New Mexico history. He is retiring this year at the end of his term because of a degenerative brain disease.
“As I have been legislating these past 36 years my goal has been to move New Mexico and this nation forward. I am not naive. I know as well as you that no one person has any monopoly on perfection — neither does any party nor any philosophy, no matter how fervently held,” Domenici said.
Education, health care, jobs and energy are among the pressing issues confronting the country, Domenici said.
“We can meet these enormous challenges if we pull together — once again a centrist coalition that shuns political extremes and focuses on common grounds,” he said.
Domenici called for a bipartisan approach in government and said he had always been “willing to compromise in order to move three steps forward on our goals rather than stubbornly resist — that it be my way or the highway.”
“I don’t regard you as liberals or conservatives, but as fellow leaders trying to do your best,” said Domenici. “We must put aside these simplistic labels and the politics of character assassination that are too prominent today.”
After the speech, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson praised Domenici.
“It’s an end of an era,” Richardson told reporters. “It’s a sad day. You know this is his last address to the Legislature. The man made monumental contributions to the state. And he showed his class today, his bipartisanship, his honesty, his simplicity, his love for the state.”
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