Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A congressional map that splits Albuquerque and reshapes the political landscape in New Mexico won final approval Saturday from state lawmakers.
The proposal, Senate Bill 1, cleared the state House on an 44-24 vote and now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and former congresswoman.
It would create three Democratic-leaning congressional districts – up from just two now.
But the margins wouldn’t be guaranteed. An election forecasting site described two of the three proposed seats as highly competitive.
“We are trying to give voters a choice – a real choice, particularly in this environment where the country is so polarized,” state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, said Saturday during a three-hour debate at the Capitol.
Republicans, in turn, slammed the proposal as a blatant attempt to dilute the voting strength of rural communities. The conservative stronghold of southeastern New Mexico would be broken into all three districts, rather than unified under one member of Congress.
“I see this map as an assault on rural New Mexico, particularly agricultural areas,” Republican state Rep. Greg Nibert of Roswell said.
Similar debates are playing out in capitals across the country as states reapportion their political districts to reflect new census data.
In New Mexico, this year’s special session is the first time in 30 years that Democrats have controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office during a redistricting year. The map in place now was designed in court and keeps Albuquerque concentrated in one district rather than split between two as proposed.
State Rep. Georgene Louis, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said the proposed map ensures all of the state’s representatives in Congress have to answer to a diverse set of constituents.
“We’re making these districts really listen to the voices of both the urban and the rural,” she said.
The map, she said, also adjusts some boundaries to reflect the wishes of Native American tribes. Louis is a member of Acoma Pueblo.
The proposal passed largely along party lines in both chambers of the Legislature. Every Republican who voted opposed it. One Democrat, Rep. Candie Sweetser of Deming, crossed party lines to vote no.
For Albuquerque, much of the West Side, South Valley and parts of the Barelas neighborhood would move into the 2nd Congressional District, which is otherwise rooted in southern New Mexico.
The 1st Congressional District would continue to cover most of Albuquerque and the East Mountains. But under the proposal, it would also take in most of Rio Rancho and cover a host of rural counties, stretching southeast to pick up part of Roswell.
The 3rd Congressional District would continue to cover Farmington and Santa Fe. It would also reach into the oil patch and cover part of Hobbs.
The proposal, of course, would have political consequences. Under the plan:
⋄ The 1st Congressional District now held by Democrat Melanie Stansbury of Albuquerque would cover precincts that have leaned about 7 percentage points toward Democrats in elections, based on an analysis of voting trends over the last 10 years by Research & Polling Inc., the state’s redistricting contractor.
The political performance, for example, is estimated at 53.5% Democratic and 46.5% Republican.
The election forecasting website FiveThirtyEight.com – owned by ABC News – rates the proposed district as Democratic-leaning, based on its own analysis.
⋄ The 2nd Congressional District now held by Republican Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo would have a 6 percentage point Democratic lean, according to the Research & Polling analysis of past elections.
FiveThirtyEight.com rated the proposed district as highly competitive.
⋄ The 3rd Congressional District now held by Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe would have a 12 point Democratic lean, according to the Research & Polling analysis.
FiveThirtyEight.com, however, rated the proposed district as highly competitive.