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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Senate Gets Redistricting

By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
    SANTA FE A plan to reopen New Mexico's congressional redistricting settled last year by a judge is headed to the Senate floor over the objections of Republican senators, who called the move a waste of time and money.
    The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted 6-3 along party lines to endorse a plan that would split Albuquerque and increase the odds of a Democratic challenger being able to unseat incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who was first elected in 1998.
    "It makes it more possible for a Democrat to win the seat," said redistricting consultant Brian Sanderoff, referring to the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.
    The Democratic-leaning areas of Las Vegas, Guadalupe County, southern Santa Fe County and Belen would become part of the 1st District under the plan (committee substitute for SB 667).
    The 1st District would lose the Republican-leaning west side of Albuquerque and part of the Northeast Heights, which would go into the northern 3rd District. The 3rd District, now held by Rep. Tom Udall, a Democrat, would remain Democratic-leaning, Sanderoff said.
    Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, who developed the plan, acknowledged it was designed to make the 1st District more winnable by Democrats.
    "On the other hand, we give up some in the southern district," McSorley said, referring to New Mexico's 2nd District, now represented by Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.
    Sen. Ramsay Gorham, R-Albuquerque, said New Mexico's redistricting battle, including a special session and two court trials, already has cost state taxpayers more than $4 million.
    "I just cannot believe that we're trying to come back and bring this all up again and waste the taxpayers' money," Gorham said. "This is a waste of our time."
    Sen. Leonard Tsosie, D-Crownpoint, who said he introduced the measure as a way to repair problems with redistricting of Native Americans, said the value of correcting an injustice "is way more than $4 million."