Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Legislators on Sunday advanced a new redistricting map for the state Senate over the objection of Native American leaders – who abruptly walked out of a Roundhouse committee room as the vote was announced.
The movement came after members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed 7-2 to forward to the full Senate a map proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque.
Her proposal reflected negotiations with Republican legislators and would ensure Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen and Sen. Joshua Sanchez of Bosque – both Republicans – aren’t paired in the same district, among other changes.
It’s a departure from the original plan moving through the Senate – a map that incorporated the wishes of tribal governments and Native American leaders from throughout New Mexico.
They said the map proposed by Stewart violated the delicate consensus reached among pueblos, the Navajo Nation and other tribal communities.
“Our voice is often ignored in this important democratic process,” Zia Pueblo Gov. Jerome Lucero told lawmakers as they considered the competing maps.
The Native consensus plan was proposed by Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, both Albuquerque Democrats.
But the committee voted 7-2 in favor of the Stewart plan, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. It had support from three Republican and four Democrats.
Native leaders and their supporters walked quickly and quietly out of the room together as soon as the vote was announced.
Stewart said her proposal made only minimal changes to the Native-consensus plan to avoid the pairing of incumbent senators.
“In the Senate,” she said, “we try very hard to be collaborative.”
Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, supported the Stewart map but said it was a difficult choice.
“I don’t see that these changes would make it so that Native American voters aren’t able to select the candidate of their choice,” Duhigg said.
The redistricting plan was initially set for action by the full Senate late Sunday. But the vote was postponed after Democratic senators gathered for a private caucus meeting.
Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo said late Sunday that he and other tribal leaders didn’t receive the proposed map changes until an hour before Sunday’s judiciary committee meeting.
The committee vote “was a total disregard for tribal sovereignty,” Vallo said.
But he left open the possibility that tribal representatives would meet with Senate leaders before the chamber takes final action.
“They need to make a commitment to hear from us and have a discussion together,” Vallo said after the vote.
Sen. Bill O’Neill, an Albuquerque Democrat who supported the Stewart map, said he expected discussions to continue.
“This is really hard. … We’re doing the best we can,” O’Neill said.
Democrats currently hold a 26-15 majority over Republicans in the 42-member Senate, which also has one independent member, Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque.
The House has already approved a plan for redrawing the boundaries of its 70 districts. Both legislative chambers also have signed off on a redrawn map for New Mexico’s three congressional districts.
That proposal could be acted upon by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the coming days.
The redistricting maps are based on population changes outlined in the 2020 U.S. Census, which was released this year.
Dan Boyd of the Journal Capitol Bureau contributed to this article.