Jesse Francis "Jeff" Bingaman Jr. (born October 3, 1943) is a former United States Senator from New Mexico, serving from 1983 to 2013. He is a member of the Democratic Party, and he served as Chairman of Committee Outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus. Previously, Bingaman was Attorney General of New Mexico from 1979 to 1983. On February 18, 2011, Bingaman announced that he would not seek re-election in 2012. He was replaced by fellow Democrat Martin Heinrich. After he left the Senate, he returned to his alma mater, Stanford Law School, as a fellow of their Steyer–Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. Bingaman is a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.
Bingaman was born in El Paso, Texas, the son of Frances Bethia (née Ball) and Jesse Francis Bingaman. He grew up in Silver City, New Mexico. His father taught at Western New Mexico University and his mother taught in the public schools system. At age 15, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. The Boy Scouts of America later presented Bingaman with their Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
After graduating from Silver High School, Bingaman went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard University in 1965. He then entered Stanford Law School, graduating in 1968. He met his wife Anne Kovacovich while attending law classes. They have one son.
After his admission to the bar, Bingaman commenced work as a private practice attorney alongside his wife. He also served as counsel to the New Mexico Constitutional Convention of 1969. From 1968 to 1974, Bingaman was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
State Attorney General
Bingaman had worked briefly in the state attorney general's office. He ran for the leadership position of this office in 1978 and was elected. Environmental and antitrust issues were some of his biggest concerns while in this position.
- Committee on Armed Services
- Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
- Subcommittee on Personnel
- Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
- Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (Chairman)
- Committee on Finance
- Subcommittee on Health Care
- Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure (Chairman)
- Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness
- Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Subcommittee on Children and Families
- Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging
- Joint Economic Committee
- Congressional Competitiveness Caucus (Co-Chair)
- International Conservation Caucus
- Senate Diabetes Caucus
In 1982, Bingaman ran for the Senate against one-term incumbent Harrison Schmitt. Bingaman accused Schmitt of not paying enough attention to local matters; his campaign slogan was "What on Earth has he done for you lately?"—a jab at Schmitt's previous service as an astronaut. He was reelected four times.
Bingaman was Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Finance Committee; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; and Joint Committee on the Economy.
Generally, Bingaman kept a fairly low national profile, even though he was the ninth most senior member of the Senate at the time of his retirement. However, he was very popular in New Mexico; he only faced substantive opposition once, in 1994.
Bingaman and his Senate colleague Pete Domenici were the longest-serving duo among senators in the 110th United States Congress (2007–2009). In second place were Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts. Due to serving alongside Domenici, the longest-serving Senator in New Mexico's history, Bingaman spent 26 years as New Mexico's junior Senator, though he had more seniority than all but a few of his colleagues. Their combined seniority gave New Mexico clout in national politics well beyond its modest population. He was the most-senior junior senator in the 110th United States Congress.
On April 28, 2008, Jeff Bingaman endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination.
On December 13, 2008, Bingaman was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from New Mexico State University at the university's Fall 2008 commencement ceremony.
On February 13, 2011, Bingaman announced he would not seek a sixth term. He formally retired on January 3, 2013; ending the second-longest Senate tenure in the state's history, behind only Domenici.
Being from a border state with Mexico, Bingaman has been much involved in the debate over illegal immigration. He believes in increased enforcement of borders to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, including more patrol agents and the use of surveillance cameras. However, he also believes that the U.S. should enact a guest worker program so that immigrants looking for honest work can arrive legally. Bingaman voted against the Secure Fence Act in 2006. He voted against declaring English to be the official language of the US government and voted in favor of continuing federal funds to self-declared "sanctuary cities."
Energy and the environment
Throughout his political career, Bingaman has burnished a pro-environmental record. He has worked consistently to protect wildlife and public lands. He spoke publicly about the necessity of the Clean Energy Act of 2007, citing the importance of developing clean technology and green jobs. He stated his support for the bill's principle of eliminating tax breaks on gas and oil companies.
Since 2006, Bingaman has been working on a bill that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions via a "cap and trade" system. He has stated that he would like to see his plan implemented so that emissions would be reduced to 1990 levels by 2030. His bill would also increase levels of federal funding for research and development of green technologies.
Bingaman has voted in line with the majority of his party on abortion, and he has received a 100% rating from the pro-choice NARAL. He has voiced his support to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Although he voted in 1996 for the Defense of Marriage Act, he voted against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and has been ranked favorably by gay rights groups (89% from the HRC). He has also voted twice against a proposed amendment to ban flag desecration and has supported affirmative action.
On October 11, 2002, Jeff Bingaman was among the 23 Senators who did not vote for authorizing the Iraq War.
Crime and torture
Bingaman has a generally prorehabilitation stance on crime, supporting more programs to prevent youth crime, lower high school dropout rates, and stop drug use. Bingaman has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. He cites the need for due process of law for detainees by saying:
Health care reform
Bingaman supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
- United States Senate election in New Mexico, 2006
- Jeff Bingaman (D) (inc.), 70.6%
- Allen McCulloch (R), 29.3%
- Orlin G. Cole, 0.06%
- United States Senate election in New Mexico, 2000
- Jeff Bingaman (D) (inc.), 61.7%
- Bill Redmond (R), 38.25%
- Orlin G. Cole, 0.04%
- United States Senate election in New Mexico, 1994
- Jeff Bingaman (D) (inc.), 53.97%
- Colin R. McMillan (R), 45.99%
- United States Senate election in New Mexico, 1988
- Jeff Bingaman (D) (inc.), 63.2%
- Bill Valentine (R), 36.8%
- United States Senate election in New Mexico, 1982
- Jeff Bingaman (D), 53.8%
- Harrison Schmitt (R) (inc.), 46.2%