Joe Biden taps former Senator Tom Udall as US ambassador to New Zealand
- Apart from New Zealand, Tom Udall would also be US ambassador to Samoa
- The 73-year-old Democrat is best known for his legislative efforts to curb pollution
- Udall had been considered by Biden to be interior secretary
He would also be US ambassador to Samoa if he wins confirmation from his former colleagues in the Senate, which is virtually assured.
Udall, a member of a prominent political family in the American West and known for his environmental passion, chose to retire last year rather than seek another term as a senator from New Mexico despite expectations he would win.
The 73-year-old Democrat is best known for his legislative efforts to curb pollution, protect public lands and fight climate change and had been considered by Biden to be interior secretary.
He has also been one of the most outspoken US lawmakers in support of lifting the longstanding embargo on Cuba and publically opposed former president Donald Trump's hardline policies on Iran, which he warned mirrored the lead-up to the Iraq war during the Bush administration.
Biden has sought an early partnership with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, hailing her leadership in Asian diplomacy and on the pandemic in a call this week.
In a break with Trump, Biden has backed Ardern's Christchurch Call to stop online extremism launched after the 2019 mosque massacre by a far-right gunman.
Udall would not be the first former senator to become US ambassador in Wellington.
Previous ones included Carol Moseley Braun, who was the first African-American woman senator, and, under Trump, Scott Brown, a Republican who shocked the political world by winning a Senate seat in deeply Democratic Massachusetts in 2010.