Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed redistricting legislation Wednesday expected to give Democrats an edge in about 45 of the 70 seats in the state House – roughly matching its existing composition.
The partisan makeup, however, would fluctuate, and the Albuquerque area is set to be a battleground.
Twelve seats are poised to be extremely competitive – with just 5 percentage points separating Democrats and Republicans, based on an analysis of voting trends over the last 10 years by Research & Polling Inc., the state’s redistricting contractor.
Nine of the 12 most competitive districts are in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, including Belen, Corrales and Rio Rancho.
Another five seats are within about 10 percentage points.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed House Bill 8 in her office Wednesday.
“This is a sound map that is representative and respectful of New Mexico’s varied communities of interest and will, I believe, ensure that the will of the people will continue to be done in that chamber,” she said in written statement.
Republican lawmakers vigorously objected to the map during the special session earlier this month. They said it creates a political advantage for Democrats, and they sought to change some boundaries to help Republican Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales.
Under the legislation, her district is expected to be extremely competitive, with a 1.6 percentage point lean toward Democrats, based on the 10-year voting analysis.
Democrats contend the map is based largely on the work of the independent Citizen Redistricting Committee, not designed to help or hurt particular incumbents.
Altogether, the map is expected to produce 34 Democratic seats and 11 Democratic-leaning seats, or seats within roughly 10 percentage points, according to the voting-trends analysis. There would be 19 Republican seats and six Republican-leaning seats.
It’s remarkably similar to the composition now in place. In the special session, for example, Democrats held a 45-24 advantage over Republicans in the House, which also has one conservative-leaning independent, Phelps Anderson of Roswell.
Lujan Grisham has now signed three of the four redistricting maps adopted by the Legislature this month – the plans for Congress, the state House and the Public Education Commission. She has until Jan. 6 to sign or veto the redistricting proposal for the state Senate.
This month’s special session was the first time in 30 years that Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the Governor’s Office during redistricting. Past plans have repeatedly ended up in court.
The plan signed Wednesday could create difficult decisions for some sitting legislators.
Among lawmakers who say they intend to seek reelection or are undecided, the House map would pair four incumbents in a district with another member, forcing them to either run against each other or move to keep a seat in the Legislature.
The pairings are:
— Republican Greg Nibert and Anderson, the independent, in the Roswell area.
— Democrat Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Republican Bill Rehm in a Northeast Albuquerque district.