In hunting, Heinrich’s views find cohesion

Martin Heinrich (Courtesy photo)

Martin Heinrich (Courtesy photo)

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich makes time – as recently as this weekend – to hunt to provide healthy meat for his family. It’s in that action that many of his views find cohesion.

This is the first of four profiles of the U.S. Senate candidates that seek to tell the stories of who they are and what shaped them.

Even while he’s served in the U.S. House, Martin Heinrich says he has made time to hunt so his family has meat to eat throughout the year.

His wife Julie buys some fish and chicken at the grocery store, but Heinrich estimates that 90 percent of the meat his family eats comes from elk, deer and javelina that he kills.

“I end up spending a lot of time in the rural parts of the state, even since I’ve been a member of Congress,” Heinrich said. “It’s something I really enjoy, but it’s also to make sure we have a full freezer through the winter.”

It’s in that action – hunting to provide for his family – that many of Heinrich’s views find cohesion.

The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is a conservationist who usually wins the endorsements of environmental groups. He has a long history of pushing so-called “smart growth” in an effort to improve the quality of life in communities and protect the environment. He’s also a 2nd Amendment supporter who, in 2009, joined 64 other House Democrats in telling the Obama Administration they wouldn’t support the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons.

If you want to get a better sense of who Heinrich is, you have to look to his childhood and the example his parents set.

“My parents were very conservation-minded ranchers. They took care of my ranch. They were pro-wildlife,” Heinrich told “And growing up hunting and fishing, being a sportsman and being pro-conservation – all of that seems congruous to me.”

‘The small family-farm approach’

Heinrich attributes much about who he is today to his parents’ work ethic. His father was a German immigrant who worked as a lineman for a power company and was a union member. His mother’s first full-time job that he recalls was sewing jeans in a factory. She later worked in a wheel factory. Neither graduated from college.


After work and on weekends his parents ran the family ranch in Missouri, where Heinrich spent most of his childhood.

“We never had a lot, but we never were for want,” Heinrich said.

He described a “huge” garden that provided vegetables his family canned to eat through the winter. They also lived off a calf or two through the cold season.

“I don’t want to suggest it was a hardship,” Heinrich said. “It was just, in many ways, a great way to earn respect for the hard work ethic that many in this country have.”

Heinrich and his wife try to live that way today and instill the same values in their two boys, who are nine and six. The video Heinrich’s campaign unveiled last year when he announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Bingaman shows one son feeding chickens in a coop in their backyard. Eggs from those chickens are part of the family’s diet.

“Eating eggs from the backyard, eating really lean, fresh game meat,” and buying local vegetables, primarily at the farmer’s market, are priorities for Heinrich and his wife.

“I’ve always loved food, but my wife and I are big believers in trying to establish healthy habits in our kids,” Heinrich said. “The kind of food that they’re exposed to on a regular basis, I think it gives them a lot of cushion from the kind of corn-syrup based sodas and candies and other things that, before long, we won’t be able to control their exposure to.”

It’s also about sustainability and the local economy.

“It makes our local community stronger to have that sort of foodshed approach,” Heinrich said. “It reminds me of the small family-farm approach that was sort of the norm when I was a kid.”

Thinking about ‘the quality of neighborhoods we want’

Sustainable growth has been a big focus for Heinrich since he was an Albuquerque city councilor from 2003-2007.

“...growing up hunting and fishing, being a sportsman, and being pro-conservation – all of that seems congruous to me.” - Martin Heinrich

“…growing up hunting and fishing, being a sportsman and being pro-conservation – all of that seems congruous to me.” – Martin Heinrich

“I cut my teeth in politics at a time when Albuquerque was really grappling with those issues – not dissimilar from what Las Cruces has gone through more recently,” Heinrich said. In the last several years Las Cruces’ city government has shifted away from embracing any development project that comes along to instead attempting to grow in a more intentional and thought-out manner.

Heinrich was part of that shift in Albuquerque. He described it as “an effort to want more jobs in our state and really build our economy, really start thinking about… the quality of neighborhoods we want, rather than just saying all growth is good.”

“That’s been, I think, a very positive evolution in New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “Fifteen years ago people viewed economic development as chasing low-wage call centers, and now we’re talking about how you take ideas and technology from inside our universities and labs and transition that into jobs.”

“That is a more mature economic approach,” he said.

Energy, Medicare and Social Security

Heinrich has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He said that, along with his upbringing, contributed to his philosophy on growth. It also contributed to the decision to move to New Mexico.

“When Julie and I decided where we were going to settle after college, a lot of it had to do with the potential that New Mexico had,” Heinrich said, mentioning Intel, the national laboratories and White Sands Missile Range – “all of these assets that I don’t think we’ve really taken full advantage of yet.”

Heinrich believes New Mexico can use those assets to improve “the way we manage energy in this country.” As a college student he was part of a team that built a carbon fiber solar car and raced it from Dallas to Minneapolis. The car used LED lights that are common today, and regenerative breaking that puts energy back into the battery, which is one reason the Toyota Prius gets such good mileage.

“I continue to think that if a group of college students could do that in 1992, 1993, then we can do a much better job today,” Heinrich said.

Protecting Medicare and Social Security is another focus for Heinrich. He said that passion, like his views on many other policy issues, was shaped by family and personal experiences. His father had a stroke earlier this year.

“My parents are both retired. They don’t have an enormous amount of savings, and those things are what provide them the independence to have a meaningful life after years and years of working incredibly hard,” Heinrich said.

Still working to fill the freezer with meat

Heinrich’s parents still live in Missouri, but this son has made his home in Albuquerque since 1995. Julie Heinrich was reading Bless Me, Ultima, a novel written by New Mexican Rudolfo Anaya, as the two were finishing college. She asked Heinrich what he thought of New Mexico, and he recalled vacationing here as a child – visiting Carlsbad Caverns, passing the lava formations near Grants.

The two decided to give the Land of Enchantment a try, though neither had a job lined up. Several weeks later, they were living in New Mexico and listening to Anaya doing a reading, Heinrich said.

Heinrich has come home most weekends since he was first elected to the U.S. House in 2008. He’s spent many of those weekends with his family in Albuquerque or holding congressional events, but some were spent hunting.

And even as he campaigns for U.S. Senate, Heinrich is working to fill the freezer with meat. This weekend, after events in Albuquerque and Roswell on Saturday, he got up at 2 a.m. Sunday so he could be turkey hunting near Santa Fe by 5:30 a.m.

He came home empty handed. But there will be another time.

Heinrich plans to instill the same values in his sons. He’s taken his oldest son hunting for duck and turkey, but not yet for big game.

“That’s not far off,” Heinrich said.

A prior version of this posting incorrectly said Heinrich went hunting near Roswell this weekend.

8 thoughts on “In hunting, Heinrich’s views find cohesion

  1. Well, it’s now May 16th, and the Balderas campaign has decided to coast this primary out without any game-changing activities.  

    While Martin Heinrich has run a boring and meaningless primary campaign, he raised more money and so he will coast to an easy victory on June 5th.  Probably 60% – 40%.  And he’ll do so without having to spend too much of the money he has on hand that he can now apply to take on Heather Wilson.

    Apparently this U.S. Senate campaign was a warm-up act for Hector Balderas.  He clearly has the potential to be a great Governor, and he is already one of the leading experts in the state on both state and local government.  We can only hope that he wakes up after his loss on June 5th and learns from his campaign’s failure what not to do when he eventually runs for Governor. 

    Looking out past June 5th, the contrast between Heather Wilson and Martin Heinrich is a sharp contrast.  Like most Democratic leaders, Heinrich cares about Americans being as healthy and as educated as possible, about widely-shared prosperity, and about a clean energy future.   Like most Republican leaders, Wilson believes in laissez-faire policies that have never produced widely shared prosperity and she is indifferent to the health and education of the American people; if elected, she will also be owned completely by the oil and gas companies who are heavily funding her campaign.

    Heinrich has also done exceptional work over the years — and often innovative work — on crime policy, raising the minimum wage, smart and Green urban development, wilderness and ecology issues, and help for veterans and military families.  He also has an exceptional bond with Native Americans that is inspiring and even touching to behold.  While he’s not yet realized his potential to create clean energy and Green trade jobs in New Mexico, once in the Senate he can stop fundraising and focus on boosting this sector of New Mexico’s economy.

    While I was a strong supporter of Hector Balderas in this primary, (and was bitterly disappointed in the mediocre campaigns both men allowed to be conducted in their name), I think that on June 5th we should all rally around Martin Heinrich and spend the next five months helping elect him our next U.S. Senator.  Despite his lackluster primary campaign while he absorbed himself in little but fundraising, he is ready intellectually for the challenge ahead of him and he is likely to be her first Democratic opponent to ever win a televised debate against Heather Wilson. 

    Martin Heinrich will be our party’s nominee on June 5th.  He deserves our full support.  And, most importantly, he has the capacity to help get life-transforming and historic things done in the U.S. Senate for the rest of the 2010s and well beyond.  

  2. After hunting spring turkey for over 25 years straight (much of it with my kids, teaching them), I will say one thing about Mr. Heinrich’s character.  If he hunts them the traditional way with a 12 gauge, hiding in the brush and calling them in close enough for a shot, he is a very patient, devoted, disciplined, and focused man.  Turkey hunting that way is the hardest of all big game sports, and the biggest challenge.  You are lucky to get 1-2 shots a day, and you have to make the most of those opportunities and execute perfectly.  Those could be good skills for a politician to have.

  3. Heath – thanks for the correction – Martin – I carried Heath’s mistake about Roswell on my broadcast today, sorry, I will correct it tomorrow. I owe you a box of Winchester Supreme Elite for your next hunting trip.

  4. Thanks for the correction Heath, that sounded pretty odd.  And true stever, the ridiculous, uninspiring, uninformative, tepid (as Mr. Goodenow put it), and lame campaign being run by all NM Democrats this year in Congressional races is obviously forced on them by orders from the party machine and the elites and bosses of the party.  I suspect the party bosses think these candidates are too incompetent to run a campaign that points out clear distinctions, differences, and comparisons with their primary opponents without slinging mud.  They may be right about that, or it could be these candidates have no differences or distinctions one to another as they parrot the party line on all issues.

  5. I get the feeling they only want to run against Wilson, not for themselves or against eachother. 

  6. He obviously has much in common with me in wanting fresh healthy meat (but I bet he doesn’t raise and slaughter his own cattle, lambs, and pigs or have an organic garden and vineyard as I do) and the enjoyment and bonding of having your kids along on hunting trips in the wild.  So he is thus a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and open access to federal and state lands for everyone for hunting, or is he?  How would he view the numerous proposals to lock away lands as wilderness with no access for hunters?  BTW, Roswell is not a good turkey hunting spot, he should try the Johnson Mesa area.

  7. Good profile, Heath.

    I’d also credit Martin Heinrich with putting forward an innovative agenda for veterans in his campaign for Senate, and working for veterans and military families during his time in the U.S. House.

    I strongly disagree with Congressman Heinrich on keeping military-style assault weapons legal.   I think he’s wrong on that one.   And his co-sponsoring of the bill to force Washington D.C. to legalize military-style assault weapons seems particularly heinous to me.

    But he’s on his way to the nomination due to his prolific skills as a fundraiser.  I have doubts about where he’s raised $1 million since 2007 — Wall Street, Defense manufacturers, casinos, etc. — but this pales in comparison to where Heather Wilson is raising her funds.

    This whole campaign has been a disappointment.  Both Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich have run tepid, uninspiring, and brain-dead campaigns rather than the idea-rich campaigns about the future of our country that they were capable of running.  Hopefully Martin Heinrich will wake up after June 5th and run a real campaign against Heather Wilson.

    The Democratic nominee should offer a real plan on education and a real plan on infrastructure.  He should stop the vague rhetoric about clean energy and tell us what he’ll do as Senator to move America into a clean energy future and create clean energy jobs here in New Mexico.   And he should come out for a $9 per hour minimum wage.  More specifics on effective business assistance are needed too, and boosting New Mexico exports.   This is how we’ll get this economy moving again in a dynamic way and get the job creation and higher wages we need.  

    Martin Heinrich is capable of running that kind of campaign and being that kind of Senator.  But he’s been in this race for more than 13 months now without saying anything substantive and real or proposing any tangible policies that will change our lives.  Those of us who admired him before he began his bid for Senate expected a lot more from him than being a prolific fundraiser.  We saw him as a thoughtful and intelligent statesman with a vision for the future — and we are waiting for that Martin Heinrich to reappear.