Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A plan to split Albuquerque between two congressional districts and reorient New Mexico’s political landscape won approval 25-15 in the state Senate late Friday and now heads to the House.
The proposal underwent significant changes in a committee hearing early Friday before securing the Senate’s endorsement in the evening.
It would split Albuquerque and establish a Democratic lean in all three congressional districts, just as a previous version did.
Democrats now hold two of the three seats.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat and sponsor of the measure, said New Mexico’s long-standing congressional map is out of date.
The existing map has an Albuquerque-based district, then a northern New Mexico seat and a southern seat.
But Cervantes said water scarcity, climate change and other challenges aren’t well-served by the north-south orientation and would be better addressed by the proposed districts.
“This map does something unique – reimagine New Mexico, reimagine a state where Albuquerque is not an island to itself,” he said.
Republican opponents of the Cervantes plan, however, said it would dilute rural voices by mixing them in with bigger-city residents.
They said it didn’t make sense for, say, someone living in liberal Santa Fe to serve as the representative of conservative-leaning communities along eastern New Mexico and part of the oil patch.
“The urban/rural divide in New Mexico is real,” said Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo.
The bill passed along party lines, with Republicans and one independent opposed.
Under the revised version of Senate Bill 1:
⋄ The 1st Congressional District would cover eastern Albuquerque, part of the city’s West Side and part of Rio Rancho. It would also stretch from Placitas through the East Mountains and down to the edge of Roswell.
Based on an analysis of voting trends over the last 10 years, Democrats would have a 7 percentage point advantage in the 1st Congressional District over Republicans.
The district is now held by Democrat Melanie Stansbury of Northeast Albuquerque.
⋄ The 2nd Congressional District – now based in southern New Mexico – would instead cover part of the West Side of Albuquerque, neighborhoods southwest of Downtown Albuquerque and the South Valley.
The district would also stretch south to cover Las Cruces, Carlsbad and part of Hobbs in the oil patch.
It would have a 6 percentage point lean toward Democrats.
Republican Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo now represents the district.
⋄ The 3rd Congressional District would still be based in northern New Mexico. It would also cover part of Rio Rancho and stretch all the way to part of Hobbs.
It would have a 12 point Democratic lean. The incumbent is Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe.
During Friday’s debate, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, an Albuquerque independent who opposed the bill, questioned why some heavily Hispanic parts of Albuquerque would be moved into the southern-based 2nd Congressional District.
“Why is it always conveniently Hispanics and people of color who have to bear the brunt of these bad choices?” Candelaria asked.
But Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said the proposed changes could open the door for more Hispanic candidates to win election in the 2nd Congressional District.
One Hispanic candidate, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces, has held the seat since it was created in the 1960s.