Jeff Bingaman

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Jeff Bingaman
Bingaman in 2008
United States Senator
from New Mexico
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 2013
Preceded byHarrison Schmitt
Succeeded byMartin Heinrich
Chair of the Senate Energy Committee
In office
January 4, 2007 – January 3, 2013
Preceded byPete Domenici
Succeeded byRon Wyden
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded byFrank Murkowski
Succeeded byPete Domenici
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 20, 2001
Preceded byFrank Murkowski
Succeeded byFrank Murkowski
25th Attorney General of New Mexico
In office
January 1, 1979 – January 1, 1983
GovernorBruce King
Preceded byToney Anaya
Succeeded byPaul Bardacke
Personal details
Jesse Francis Bingaman Jr.

(1943-10-03) October 3, 1943 (age 80)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseAnne Kovacovich
Children1 son
EducationHarvard College (BA)
Stanford University (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1968–1974
UnitUnited States Army Reserve

Jesse Francis "Jeff" Bingaman Jr. (born October 3, 1943) is an American retired politician who served as a United States Senator from New Mexico from 1983 to 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 25th Attorney General of New Mexico from 1979 to 1983. During his time in the Senate, Bingaman served as Chairman of Committee Outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus and was the longtime chair of the Senate Energy Committee.

Bingaman worked on Congressional committees on Armed Services; Energy and Natural Resources (Chairman); Finance; Health, Education Labor & Pensions; Joint Economic Committee; among others. He advocated environmental issues such as for clean energy policies and protection of wildlife and public lands. Bingaman took positions favoring immigration reform with increased border enforcement coupled with a guest worker program.

After he left the Senate, he returned to his alma mater Stanford Law School as a fellow of its Steyer–Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bingaman was born in El Paso, Texas, the son of Frances Bethia (née Ball) and Jesse Francis Bingaman.[2] 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.[3]

After graduating from Silver High School in 1961, Bingaman went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard College in 1965. He then entered Stanford Law School, graduating in 1968.

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. He attended basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, as a private and graduated from the chaplain enlisted assistant technician course at the Army Chaplain School, Fort Hamilton, New Jersey in April 1969.[4][5]

State Attorney General[edit]

Bingaman worked briefly in the state attorney general's office. He then 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.

U.S. Senate[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]


Bingaman with President Obama in 2010

In 1982, Bingaman was elected to the Senate, defeating one-term Republican 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 who had walked on the Moon.[6] 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. He was very popular in New Mexico, facing substantive opposition only 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 ironically he had more seniority than all but a few of his colleagues. He was the most-senior junior senator in the 110th United States Congress.

On April 28, 2008, Bingaman endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

On February 18, 2011, Bingaman announced that he would not seek reelection in 2012.[7][8] He formally retired on January 3, 2013, ending the second-longest Senate tenure in the state's history, behind only Domenici.

In his 2022 book "Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis", Bingaman discusses the erosion of congressional norms, outlines five governing obstacles for Congress members, evaluates their impact on eight major legislative actions during his term, and suggests improvements for Congress.[9]

Political positions[edit]


Being from a border state with Mexico, Bingaman was highly involved in the debate over illegal immigration. He believed 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 believed that the U.S. should enact a guest worker program so that immigrants looking for honest work could arrive legally.[10] Bingaman voted against the Secure Fence Act in 2006.[11] 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".[11]

Energy and the environment[edit]

Throughout his political career, Bingaman had a pro-environmental record. He 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.[12]

Starting in 2006, Bingaman worked unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions via a "cap and trade" system. He stated his hope of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2030. His bill would also have increased federal funding for research and development of green technologies.[13]

Social issues[edit]

Bingaman voted in line with the majority of his party on abortion, and he received a 100% rating from the pro-choice NARAL. He supported reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.[14] Although he voted in 1996 for the Defense of Marriage Act, he voted against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and was ranked favorably by gay rights groups (such as 89% from the Human Rights Campaign). He also voted twice against a proposed amendment to ban flag desecration, and supported affirmative action.[15]

Iraq War[edit]

On October 11, 2002, Jeff Bingaman was among the 23 Senators who voted against authorizing the Iraq War.[16]

Crime and torture[edit]

Bingaman had a generally pro-rehabilitation stance on crime, supporting more programs to prevent youth crime, lower high school dropout rates, and stop drug use. Bingaman was an outspoken critic of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He cited the need for due process of law for detainees by saying:

The current practice of holding detainees or prisoners indefinitely, without affording them basic due process rights, has been widely criticized in this country and throughout the world. For a country such as ours that has consistently advocated for the rule of law, the policies of the current administration are nothing short of a major embarrassment ... How we handle prisoners can have a dramatic impact on how our own men and women are treated in the event they are themselves taken prisoner.[1] Archived 2006-02-05 at the Wayback Machine

Health care reform[edit]

Bingaman supported President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[17] and voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[18]

Electoral history[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Bingaman met his wife Anne Kovacovich when both were attending Stanford Law School. They have one son, John, who served as the chief of staff for New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (2019-2020).[19]

Awards and honors[edit]

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.

He received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.[20]


  1. ^ Romero, Judith (1 April 2013). "Former Senator an Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman to Lead Stanford University Steyer–Taylor Center Initiative on Renewable Portfolio Standards as Distinguished Feellow". Stanford. Archived from the original on 6 April 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  2. ^ 1
  3. ^ "About Jeff Bingaman". Jeff Bingaman, US Senator from New Mexico. Archived from the original on 2006-11-04. Retrieved 2006-11-07.
  4. ^ "Town and Country", Silver City Daily Press, Silver City, New Mexico, volume LXXIII, number 159, December 23, 1968, page 3.
  5. ^ "Completes Course", El Paso Times, El Paso, Texas, 89th year, number 107, April 17, 1969, page 11-A.
  6. ^ "Moon Walkers - The 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing - TIME". 2009-07-19. Archived from the original on 2009-07-19. Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  7. ^ McPike, Erin (2011-02-18). "Jeff Bingaman to Retire". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  8. ^ Cillizza, Chris (2011-02-18). "Jeff Bingaman to retire". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  9. ^ Bingaman, Jeff (2022). Breakdown: Lessons for a Congress in Crisis. High Road Books. ISBN 978-0-8263-6414-2.
  10. ^ "U.S. Senator Bingaman: Border Issues". 2009-02-13. Archived from the original on 2010-08-04. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  11. ^ a b "Home - Finding Neverland - the New Musical". 3 April 2021.
  12. ^ Andrews, Edmund L. (January 19, 2007). "House Votes to Rescind Oil Drillers' Tax Breaks". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  13. ^ "CQ".
  14. ^ "New Mexico Democrat Supports Revival of Fairness Doctrine". 2008-10-22. Archived from the original on 2009-02-15. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  15. ^ "Jeff Bingaman on the Issues". Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  16. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  17. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 111th Congress - 1st Session".
  18. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  19. ^ "Team". Iron Creek Partners. Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  20. ^ "Distinguished Eagle Scouts" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-08. Retrieved 2010-11-04.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Attorney General of New Mexico
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New Mexico
(Class 1)

1982, 1988, 1994, 2000, 2006
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 1) New Mexico
Served alongside: Pete Domenici, Tom Udall
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Energy Committee
Succeeded by
Chair of the Senate Energy Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Energy Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Senator
Succeeded byas Former US Senator