Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed off Thursday on a plan to redraw the political boundary lines of New Mexico’s 42 state Senate districts, putting an end – at least for now – to a bitter redistricting process.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, faced a Thursday deadline to act on the new Senate map, which generated fierce debate in the chamber during last month’s special session. It won approval on a 25-13 vote with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans in opposition.
Specifically, GOP senators accused majority Democrats of backing out of a bipartisan deal and diluting the strength of Hispanic voters.
The new map creates 15 districts where Hispanic residents make up a majority of the adult population. That’s one fewer than the existing map, using 2020 census data. Hispanic residents make up about 44% of the adult population in New Mexico.
The map also pairs two Hispanic Republicans – Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen and Sen. Joshua Sanchez of Bosque – into one district, forcing them to either move or run against each other in 2024 to keep a legislative seat.
During last month’s testy Senate floor debate on the new map, Baca called the plan racist and said Hispanic residents were being “cheated of your seats.”
Two incumbent Democrats – Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Bill O’Neill, both of Albuquerque – are also paired in the same district, but Ortiz y Pino has said he does not plan to seek reelection in 2024.
Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the Senate by a 26-15 margin. There is also one senator, Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque, who is not affiliated after leaving the Democratic Party.
The map signed Thursday would establish 27 Democratic-leaning seats and 15 Republican-leaning seats, based on voting trends over the last 10 years, according to analysis by redistricting contractor Research & Polling Inc.
The most competitive seat in the map is District 29, a seat that will cover parts of Belen and Socorro. It’s also where Baca and Sanchez live.
Republicans have had a 4 percentage point edge in the precincts now covered by the district – the only seat within a 5 point margin.
Six other seats are within 10 percentage points for one party or another.
The map appears to be less competitive than the House plan. In the House map, 12 of 70 seats are within 5 percentage points, putting 17% of the chamber in extremely competitive districts.
In the Senate plan, just one seat out of 42 is that close, or 2% of the chamber’s districts.
The new Senate map reflects a consensus reached by Native American leaders around the state, who pushed back against attempts to make changes to the agreed-upon boundary lines for political reasons.
“I am grateful to the community leaders from across the state that held their ground for a representative map respectful of New Mexico communities large and small alike, ensuring that New Mexicans are fairly represented in the state Senate,” Lujan Grisham said in a written statement.
The governor has already signed new maps for New Mexico’s three congressional districts, the state House and the Public Education Commission, though the state Republican Party has said it is studying possible court challenges to at least some of those plans.