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Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
WASHINGTON – After winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, Martin Heinrich was contemplating possible committee assignments when he got a phone call from then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The longtime Nevada Democratic power broker had good news. He planned to grant Heinrich a plum assignment on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The powerful perch would give the freshman Democratic senator from New Mexico immediate influence on an array of issues critical to his state.
But Reid wasn’t done. He also notified Heinrich that he’d be serving on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – commonly known as the Senate intel committee – that dwelled in shadowy subject areas in which Heinrich had little experience.
“Before I could say anything, he hung up,” Heinrich said, recalling the moment with a big belly laugh during a recent Journal interview in his Capitol Hill office.
In the five years since receiving Reid’s surprise phone call, Heinrich has morphed from national intelligence neophyte into one of the highest-profile members of the Senate committee.
The typically secretive panel was thrust into the national spotlight over the summer as it investigated allegations of collusion between the Russian government and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Throughout the Senate inquiry, few on the panel have garnered as much notice in both traditional and social media for their questioning as the junior senator from New Mexico.
In May, Heinrich was interviewed on multiple cable networks after his grilling of Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe led the law enforcement official to declare that rank-and-file FBI agents had great confidence in James Comey. That testimony contradicted Trump, who had fired Comey as the agency’s director weeks before, citing in part poor morale at the FBI.
A month later, mainstream media and social media lit up again when Heinrich questioned a tight-lipped Attorney General Jeff Sessions about possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Exasperated with Sessions’ evasion, Heinrich accused the former senator from Alabama of “impeding this investigation.”
The testy exchange prompted Princeton University history professor Kevin M. Kruse to dub Heinrich’s strategic questioning “the Heinrich maneuver” in a Twitter quip that generated almost 500 retweets. Heinrich’s high-profile moment in the media glare even had some rank-and-file Democrats, who are searching for their next presidential candidate, tweeting about “Heinrich in 2020.”
As Congress returns from its August recess on Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will once again be in the spotlight as its chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, aims to wrap up the panel’s work on the Russia inquiry, possibly by year’s end. Burr told the Journal on Friday that he hopes to make a conclusive report available to the American public as soon as possible.
“We continue to go wherever there is intelligence that suggests we need to look,” Burr said in a telephone interview. “It’s my aspirational goal to have everything wrapped up by the end of the year, but that’s making a big assumption.”
In the Journal interview, Heinrich said he spent his first couple of years on the intelligence committee listening and learning as much as he could about the 17 agencies and offices that make up the U.S. intelligence enterprise.
He first made a splash on the panel in 2014 as it delved into the controversial National Security Agency wiretapping program and raised questions about Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. But the Russia investigation is where Heinrich seems to have made his mark.
“It has been appropriate and necessary to have these hearings in a public setting, whereas usually on intel you need it in a closed setting,” Heinrich said, explaining why he thinks his questioning received so much attention. “That opened a door that simply wasn’t there before. The thing I have learned from watching my colleagues, including people like (Republican) Sen. Lindsay Graham, who is a very effective questioner, and others that are good at that skill, is to not just take a stack of questions your staff gives you and ask those, and spend the first four minutes talking about yourself.
“You need to pay attention to what they say in their testimony, pay attention to what they say to other members and ask the questions that you think the public would want to know,” he added.
Although some Republicans have grumbled about Heinrich and other intelligence committee Democrats inflating the Russia inquiry into a television drama with the aim of tarnishing Trump, few contacted by the Journal were willing to do so on the record.
Privately, GOP strategists looking ahead to the 2018 election cycle concede they aren’t sure where the Russia inquiry will end up and say they’d rather not discuss the matter publicly at all until special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate and House intelligence committees exonerate Trump and his campaign associates.
A spokesman for Mick Rich, a Republican Albuquerque contractor who hopes to secure the GOP nomination and challenge Heinrich for the New Mexico Senate seat in 2018, suggested that the Russia probe isn’t important to New Mexicans. A Quinnipiac University Poll released in early June found that while 63 percent of American voters believe Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, nearly two-thirds of respondents to Harvard-Harris Poll said investigations into Trump and Russia are hurting the country.
“While Mick Rich crisscrosses New Mexico listening to working people’s concerns about the economy, jobs, and their children’s futures, Martin Heinrich continues his career of political grandstanding on issues that don’t affect New Mexicans at all,” said Nathan James, Rich’s campaign spokesman.
Heinrich argues that his work on the intelligence committee is important to the nation and does not diminish the work he does in behalf of New Mexico.
Burr told the Journal that Heinrich, a mechanical engineer by training, “is our tech guy” on the intelligence committee. The chairman said that the panel is historically nonpartisan and that he hasn’t viewed Heinrich as using the panel to score political points during the Russia probe.
“He is extremely smart, and having his understanding of … complicated issues (helps), certainly now looking forward, as he is able to distill that in a way that the rest of the members can understand,” Burr said. “He’s fully engaged; he’s a hard worker and is a tremendous asset to the overall committee’s work.”
Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, sits next to Heinrich in Senate intelligence committee hearings. King called the Russia inquiry “quite possibly the most important work of my life” and said he is proud to share space on the committee dais with Heinrich.
“I’ve had a chance to work really closely with him,” King told the Journal. “It may be his engineering background, but he really homes in on the details and asks the right questions. He’s well-prepared, and I have found him to be a really thoughtful, solid, common-sense guy.”
For his part, Heinrich said he plans to keep “following the facts” in the Russia inquiry when Congress reconvenes this week. He said he worries that people underestimate Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said wants to erase any democratic progress Russia has made since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He called Putin an “incredibly aggressive adversary” who is willing to disrupt U.S. elections and more to weaken to world’s last superpower.
“It would be a mistake to underestimate him as an adversary,” Heinrich said. “He is willing to blur every line to be more influential in the world. There aren’t a lot of limits to what Vladimir Putin is willing to do. So as a country, I think just having that conversation in the public and making people realize what is at stake is a very important part of this.”
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
Martin Trevor Heinrich (; born October 17, 1971) is an American politician and businessman serving as the juniorUnited States Senator from New Mexico since 2013.
A native of Fallon, Nevada, Heinrich lived much of his adulthood in New Mexico, specifically Albuquerque, the state's largest city. As a member of the Democratic Party, he was the U.S. Representative for New Mexico's 1st congressional district from 2009 to 2013. He then won the Senate seat vacated by retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman in 2012. Heinrich was mentioned as a possible nominee for Vice President of the United States in 2016 under Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. However, Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia was later selected for the ticket.
Early life, education, and business career
Martin Trevor Heinrich was born in Fallon, near Carson City, Nevada. Heinrich is the son of Shirley A. (née Bybee), a seamstress, and Peter C. Heinrich, a utility company lineman. Raised as a Lutheran, Heinrich and his parents are of German ancestry. Heinrich grew up in the town of Cole Camp, Missouri, located near Missouri's fifth largest city, Columbia. He now resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico & represents the state in Washington DC. Heinrich was educated and went to local public schools in Cole Camp, then moved to Columbia in 1989 to attend the University of Missouri. He graduated in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and later left Missouri, settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico to take graduate courses at the University of New Mexico. After a brief stint doing mechanical drawings, Heinrich worked as an AmeriCorps fellow in New Mexico.
From 1996 to 2001, he served as executive director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, a New Mexico non-profit organization dedicated to educating young people on natural science and the environment. In 2002, Heinrich founded his own public affairsconsulting firm.
Early political career
Heinrich served on the Albuquerque City Council from 2003 to 2007, which included one term as city council president in 2006. As a city councilman, he stated that his goals were to reduce crime, raise the minimum wage and create new jobs. He also advocated the use of wind and solar power.
In February 2006, he was appointed by GovernorBill Richardson to be the state's Natural Resources Trustee.
U.S. House of Representatives
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New Mexico, 2008 § District 1
In 2008, Heinrich filed papers to run in New Mexico's 1st congressional district, based in Albuquerque. He originally planned to challenge five-term Republican incumbent Heather Wilson, but Wilson retired to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Pete Domenici. Heinrich won the Democratic primary on June 4, 2008, defeating New Mexico Secretary of StateRebecca Vigil-Giron, State Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham, and U.S. Army veteran Robert Pidcock 44%-25%-24%-8%.
In the general election, Heinrich faced Bernalillo CountySheriffDarren White, whom Heinrich's campaign focused on linking to PresidentGeorge W. Bush. Heinrich also called for energy independence and an end to the war in Iraq. He defeated White, 56%-44%, carrying three of the district's five counties: Bernalillo (56%), Sandoval (56%), and Valencia (53%). White won Santa Fe (64%) and Torrance (57%) counties. Upon his swearing in on January 3, 2009, he became the first Democrat to represent the district. The district had been in Republican hands since New Mexico was split into districts in 1969, but has become increasingly friendly to Democrats in recent years; it has not supported a Republican for president since 1988.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in New Mexico, 2010 § District 1
Heinrich was challenged by Republican Jon Barela, who told Politico he did not believe Heinrich reflected the district, saying he was too far left on budget and spending issues. During the 2010 campaign, Roll Call reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee assigned a lobbyist to aid in the reelection campaigns of possibly vulnerable house members to help in fundraising, messaging and campaign strategy. Heinrich was elected to a second term, defeating Barela 52%-48%, and carrying two of the district's counties: Bernalillo (53%) and Sandoval (51%). Barela won Santa Fe (67%), Torrance (61%), and Valencia (53%) counties.
On January 14, 2009, Heinrich was elected by the House Democratic freshmen to a six-month term as their freshmen class president. He co-sponsored the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act, which would cancel an automatic $4,700 salary raise for members of Congress.
On March 21, 2010, Heinrich voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act).
NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC endorsed Heinrich in 2010.
Heinrich received a 100% score from NARAL in 2009.
Heinrich has identified himself as an environmentalist throughout his career. He served as executive director of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, a New Mexico non-profit organization dedicated to educating young people on natural science and the environment, and founded his own public affairsconsulting firm.
Later, as a member of the Albuquerque City Council, he advocated for the use of wind and solar power. In February 2006, he was appointed by GovernorBill Richardson to be the state's Natural Resources Trustee. He also served on the executive committee of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter. In August 2011, he received the Sierra Club's first endorsement of the 2012 election cycle. He opposes construction of the Keystone Pipeline. He supports cap-and-trade legislation.
In 2008, Heinrich stated, "I am not supportive of gay marriage, but I do believe that everybody in the United States has the same civil rights in front of the government. So I think it's important that civil rights that are available to heterosexual couples should be available to every single gay couple who also wants to make the same sort of commitments."
After his 2012 Senate primary opponent, Hector Balderas, announced his support for same-sex marriage, Heinrich's staff released a statement to the New Mexico Independent newspaper stating, "Martin has supported gay marriage for some time. I just don't think he was asked about it. Thanks for asking!" He was an original cosponsor of Congressman Jerry Nadler's 2009 legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
"Every life lost to gun violence is a tragedy. Our country is weary from violence and grief and the American people deserve meaningful action from Congress. It's long past due for a legislative response to keep guns out of the hands of those that would turn them against our communities."
The National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed Heinrich during the 2010 congressional election. At that time, he received a grade of "A" from the NRA on his stance with regards to Second Amendment rights. He is a former member of the NRA.
Heinrich opposed legislation that would have reinstated the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He also supported bills to create a national standard for the concealed carrying of firearms across state lines, and co-sponsored legislation that would ease the restrictions on the sales of firearms across state lines.
In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Heinrich stated that Congress needed to pass legislative changes to combat gun violence.
In 2008, Heinrich was criticized by the New Mexico Republican Party for his work on the creation of the Ojito National Wilderness, which they said amounted to unregistered lobbying. Heinrich responded that the work was advocacy that did not require lobbying disclosure.
Heinrich was a member of the House Armed Services Committee. During his time in Congress, Heinrich has maintained strong opposition to the war in Iraq, and supports a swift end of combat operations in Afghanistan.
In 2011, he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act conference report because he objected to language requiring that suspected foreign terrorists be taken into custody by the military instead of civilian law enforcement authorities.
See also: United States Senate election in New Mexico, 2012
Heinrich announced that he would leave the House to run for the United States Senate seat held by Jeff Bingaman, who retired at the end of his term. In March, Politico reported that Al Gore had signed a fundraising letter for Heinrich. Heinrich defeated State Auditor Hector Balderas in the Democratic primary. Heinrich faced Republican Heather Wilson, his predecessor in Congress, in the general election on November 6, 2012. He defeated Wilson, 51% to 45%.
On April 17, 2013, Heinrich voted to expand background checks for gun purchases. On April 17, 2013, Heinrich voted against regulating assault weapons.
On September 27, 2013, Heinrich voted to restore funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of an amendment to legislation funding government operations for 45 days, and which also omitted House-passed language prioritizing debt payments if Congress fails to increase the nation’s borrowing limits.
Bipartisan survival trip
In 2014, Heinrich and Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona traveled to a small island called Eru in the Marshall Islands. The Discovery Channel sent a film crew to document their trip and plan to air the film for a show called Rival Survival. Heinrich and Flake had to survive for six days with few resources, including no natural sources of drinkable water. After the trip, Heinrich told reporters that he and Flake decided to go on the trip to demonstrate that politicians from different political parties can work together, and in their case, to survive.
|New Mexico's 1st congressional district Democratic primary election, 2008|
|Democratic||Michelle Lujan Grisham||12,074||23.51%|
|New Mexico's 1st congressional district election, 2008|
|New Mexico's 1st congressional district election, 2010|
|Democratic||Martin Heinrich (incumbent)||112,707||51.88%|
|U.S. Senate Democratic primary election in New Mexico, 2012|
|U.S. Senate election in New Mexico, 2012|
|Independent American||Jon Ross Barrie||28,199||3.63%|
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