This story is a staff report from The Paper.

Sen Tom Udall
US Sen. Tom Udall, CSpan


The U.S. Senate confirmed two former senators and the widows of two senators to diplomatic posts on Tuesday, including New Mexico’s former Democratic Senator Tom Udall as ambassador to New Zealand and American Samoa and Republican former Senator Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey.

Both were confirmed by voice vote, as was Cindy Hensley McCain, an Arizona businesswoman and widow of the late Republican Senator John McCain, who will have the rank of ambassador as U.S. Representative to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

The Senate also confirmed Victoria Reggie Kennedy, an attorney and gun control advocate who is the widow of the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, as ambassador to Austria.

The confirmation of four ambassadors was unusual in a bitterly divided Senate where Republicans have refused to confirm many of President Joe Biden’s nominees.

Udall served as our state’s attorney general, a congressman and a U.S. senator from New Mexico before announcing his plan to retire from elected office. But in an interview with The Paper. in the final months of his term, Udall said he was still looking for ways to serve in public life.

N.M. Sen. Ben Ray Luján issued a statement shortly after on the confirmation. “Senator Tom Udall served New Mexico with honor and distinction for decades, and I’m confident that he’ll work on behalf of the American people with that same dedication. Tom is a well-respected statesman with strong credentials, and I know that New Mexicans take great pride in his confirmation as U.S. Ambassador,” he said.

“Tom has been a friend, mentor, and colleague for many years, and I was honored to support his confirmation. I look forward to watching Tom and Jill begin this new chapter in public service where they will continue to make New Mexicans – and all Americans – proud.”