On Monday, December 6, the New Mexico legislature convened the special session for the purpose redrawing the states United States congressional Districts as well as all State House and Senate Districts. The 2021 special session is the first time in 30 years that Democrats have controlled both the New Mexico House and Senate chambers and the Governor’s Office during a redistricting year. The current congressional map was a result of litigations and was designed in court 10 years ago and keeps Albuquerque concentrated in one district rather than split between two districts. The 2021 enacted congressional redistricting plan changes that.
NEW CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS
On December 11, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 44 to 24 to pass Senate Bill 1, clearing the way for a new Congressional map in time for the 2022 election season. If Governor Lujan Grisham signs the redistricting, which is highly likely, Albuquerque will be split and be into two districts of CD 1 and CD 2. As adopted, all three Congressional Districts will have constituents in the SE quadrant of the state. The proposal passed along party lines in both chambers of the Legislature. Every Republican voted to opposed it. Only one Democrat, Representative Candie Sweetser of Deming, crossed party lines to vote no with Republicans.
For Albuquerque, much of the West Side, South Valley and parts of the Barelas neighborhood will be moved into the 2nd Congressional District, which is otherwise rooted in southern New Mexico. As the new districts are drawn, all 3 congressional districts will have constituents in the South East quadrant of the state.
Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) says the new congressional District will give Hispanic and Tribal communities a stronger voice and had this to say:
“We’re re-imagining New Mexico, which is no longer Albuquerque as an island unto itself, but rather a map of Congressional representation that includes rural and urban together and really begins to make New Mexico feel a little more diverse and a little more unified. … I think that’s very exciting to realize it’s no longer a north-south state with a dividing line at I-40 and Albuquerque sitting as an island. We’re going to do better as a state, when we begin to unify our communities.”
Albuquerque Democrat State Representative Georgene Louis, a 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. Louis is a member of Acoma Pueblo and said the plan adjusts some boundaries to reflect the wishes of Native American tribes. Louis put it this way:
“We’re making these districts really listen to the voices of both the urban and the rural.”
UNM Political Science Professor Dr. Lonna Atkeson said that this could lead to Democrats winning all three districts and put it this way:
“Are we going to keep the same boundaries, which have led to, for example in our federal elections, a common two Democratic and one Republican house member split or are we going to change that map so that it really probably picks up three blue districts? That’s really what the fight is over.”
STRONG OPPOSTION VOICED
Strong opposition emerged immediately. Albuquerque South Valley Democrat Senator Jacob Candelaria condemned the District 1 map claiming it will dilute the influence of Latino voters in Albuquerque’s working class West Side. Candelaria has announced he will not run for reelection in 2024. At the beginning of the special session, Candelaria announced a change in his party affiliation from Democratic to “unaffiliated” denouncing the corrosive effects of extreme partisanship. His departure from the Democratic Party results in a 26-seat Democratic majority with 15 Republicans in the 42 member Senate. Candelaria had this to say about the passed congressional district plan:
“You would strip representation from people that I represent, many of whom are Hispanic, simply because it benefits you at the ballot box. ”
New Mexico House and Senate Republicans blasted the re districting legislation charging it as a blatant attempt to dilute the voting strength of rural communities. The main criticism is that the conservative stronghold of southeastern New Mexico will be broken into all 3 congressional districts, rather than unified and represented by one member of congress as it has been for decades.
Republican state Representative Greg Nibert of Roswell put it this way:
“I see this map as an assault on rural New Mexico, particularly agricultural areas. It looks to me like the Senate plan purposefully makes the current competitive districts uncompetitive … That is not by happenstance; that is by design, and it is politically motivated.”
Republican Senator Cliff Pirtle, Roswell, said he thinks the congressional map could diminish the power of the Democrat held 3rd Congressional District represented by Teresa Leger Fernandez and he had this to say:
“It’s a risk that is being taken [by Democrats thinking they can make inroads in the traditionally Republican part of the state] … with the right candidate who really speaks to the independents and people frustrated with the Democratic Party, we could pull off a win even in the next election.”
The New Mexico Acequia Association and the Pueblos of Laguna and Acoma also opposed the new districts because of how the changes would affect the 3rd District in the northeast. Conroy Chino, a lobbyist for the two pueblos, said they’re against the plan because of their close relationship with U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez and because the map would reduce the Native American population that’s old enough to vote in CD 3 from 20% to 16%.
Representative Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, said concerns about congressional leaders ignoring rural communities are likely unfounded and said any congressional leader who does that and said
“will not be in office very long. I think it is a huge advantage to have three districts where there are both urban and rural issues [represented] and Because those congresspersons who are elected will have a much broader understanding of what is facing both rural New Mexico and urban New Mexico.”
FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The First Congressional District is represented by freshman Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury who was just elected in a special election with 60% plus landslide in June to replace Debra Halaand who resigned when she was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Joe Biden. Stansbury is decisively a progressive Democrat. Most of the city of Rio Rancho is now in District 1 which could be problematic for Standsbury. Rio Rancho is the 3rd largest city in the state and has a healthy number of conservative Republican registered voters. The Democratic leaning Albuquerque Westside, South Valley and the Barelas have been removed from the District and now in the Second Southern Congressional District represented by Republican Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo. District 1 now includes the conservative rural counties of DeBaca and Lincoln.
Before the new redistricting, District 1 included Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Torrance, and Valencia counties. Under the new redistricting, the 1st Congressional District would continue to cover most of Albuquerque and the East Mountains and now it will also include most of Rio Rancho and include Ruidoso and cover a number of rural counties, stretching southeast with part of Roswell included. The counties in the District 1 include parts of Beranlillo County, Valncia, Torrance, Guadalupe, Lincoln and De Baca. Towns and cities included in District 1 CD are Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Moriarty, Roswell, Estancia, Stanly, Santa Rosa, Fort Sumner, and Ruidoso.
An analyst of the district conducted by the legislatures contracted polling company Research and Polling reveals the new Congressional District 1 covers precincts that lean 7% points toward Democrats in elections over the past 10 years. The political performance sampling estimated the district will lean 53.5% Democratic and 46.5% Republican.
PAST FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT REPRESENTATION
The 1st Congressional District now held by Democrat Melanie Stansbury of Albuquerque. Her predecessors have included Democrats US Interior Secretary Debra Haaland (elected 2 terms, January 3, 2019 – March 16, 2021), Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham (elected 3 terms, January 3, 2013 – January 1, 2019), Senator Martin Heinrich (elected 2 terms, January 3, 2009 –January 3, 2013 ) and Republicans Heather Wilson (elected 6 terms, June 25, 1998 – January 3, 2009), Congressman Steve Schiff (elected 5 terms, January 3, 1989 – March 25, 1998) and Manuel Lujan, Jr. (elected 10 terms, January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1989.)
SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISITRICT
Before redistricting, the 2nd congressional district included southern part of Bernalillo, Catron, Chaves, Cibola, DeBaca, Doña Ana, Eddy, Grant, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, McKinley, Otero, Roosevelt, Sierra, Socorro, and Valencia counties. The 2nd Congressional District now has the counties of Cibola, Catron, Socorro, Hidalgo, Grant, Luna, Sierra, Doña Ana, Otero, Eddy. The towns and cities on District 2 include Lordsburg, Deming, Silver City, Reserve, Soccoro, Los Lunas, Grants, Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, Alamogordo and Carlsbad. The 2nd Congressional District includes the southern part of Hobbs, the southern half of Zuni Pueblo, the southern half of the Mescalero Apache tribal lands, and the Albuquerque South Valley just outside the city limits of Albuquerque. Hobbs is being split in half between Districts 2 and 3. According to the Research & Polling analysis of past elections, Democrats would have a 6% point Democratic lean.
One of the biggest changes for the Second Congressional District is that it now includes a large portion of Albuquerque’s s Westside, the South Valley and the Barelas neighborhood, areas of the city that will no doubt feel out of place philosophically with the far more conservative southern part of the state except perhaps for Dona Ana County with Las Cruces. According to the latest census numbers Doña Ana County’s population is nearly 70% Hispanic. The new district map brings the adult Hispanic population in CD 2 to a little more than 56% which is an increase of 5%.The progressive Center for Civic Policy stated in submitted comments:
“This map attempts to address these nagging racial equity concerns. … [Hispanic] voices largely go unheard and under-represented [in the current District]. ”
PAST SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT REPRESENTATION
The 2nd Congressional District is now held by Republican Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo. Her predecessors are Democrat Xochitl Torrez Small (elected 1 term, January 3, 2019 – January 3, 202), Republican Steve Pierce (elected 4 terms January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2019), Democrat Harry Teageu (elected 1 term, January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2011, Republicans Steve Pearce, (elected 3 terms, January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2009) Joe Skeen (elected 11 terms, January 3, 1981 – January 3, 2003), Democrat Harold Runnels, (elected 5 terms, January 3, 1971 – August 5, 1980), and Republican Ed Foreman (elected 1 term, January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1971.) .
THIRD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The 3rd Congressional District is now held by Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe. Before redistricting, the 3rd congressional district included a northern part of Bernalillo County and included Colfax, Curry, Harding, Los Alamos, McKinley, Mora, Quay, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, Sandoval, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos, and Union. The new district includes the counties of San Juan, Rio Arriba, Taos, Colfax, Union, most of Mc Kinely and Sandoval counties, San Miguel, Quay, Guadalupe, De Baca, Chavez and most of Roosevelt County. The 3rd Congressional District will continue to include Farmington, Santa Fe and Los Alamos. Other towns and cities included in District 3 are Gallup, Aztec, Tierra Amarilla, Taos, Raton, Mora, Raton, Las Vegas, Clayton, Tucumcari, Portales, Clovis and Tucumcari. District 3 reaches South into the oil patch and covers part of the city of Hobbs. Hobbs is being split in half between Districts 2 and 3. According to according to the Research & Polling analysis, the District will have a 12 point Democratic lean.
Informed sources are reporting that Democrat Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez is not at all pleased with the final shape of the district. In particular, she is concerned that her new district extends south into the very conservatives oil patch territory, including half of the Anglo dominated city of Hobbs. The problem for Fernandez is 80% of the oil and gas industry in the SE is now in the 3rd Congressional District. Leger Fernandez is at serious odds with the oil and gas industry over climate change. New Mexico is now the second highest producer of oil and gas in the country and the industry will no doubt throw big bucks at the race to get rid of her in congress. In close, competitive races, enormous amounts of money too often make the difference suppressing the vote and allowing Republicans to win.
PAST THIRD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT REPRESENTATION
The 3rd Congressional District is now represented by Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez who was elected to her first term in 2020. Her predecessors are Democrats Senator Ben Ray Lujan, (elected 6 terms, January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2021), Former Senator Tom Udall, (elected 5 terms, January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2009), Republican Bill Redman, (elected 1 term, May 13, 1997 – January 3, 1999), former Governor Bill Richardson (elected 8 terms January 3, 1983 – February 13, 1997).
FiveThirtyEight, sometimes rendered as 538, is an American website that focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics, economics, and sports blogging. 538 is owned by ABC News. The website, which takes its name from the number of electors in the United States electoral college, was founded on March 7, 2008, as a polling aggregation website. It reviews hundreds of polls and compiles a listing of results of those polls. The link to 538 is here:
On December 10, “FiveThirtyEight” reported as follows:
“On Dec. 10, the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee advanced an alternative congressional map that would give Democrats an edge in all three of New Mexico’s districts. Like an earlier version of the map, the map would make it easier for Democrats to capture the 2nd District, which is currently held by Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell. If the map is adopted, her district would go from a partisan lean of R+14 to D+4. The tradeoff, however, is that the 3rd District would become more competitive, endangering the reelection prospects of Democratic Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez. Her district would go from a partisan lean of D+14 to D+5. This latest map, however, leaves her seat a tad safer than in the earlier version.”
“FiveThirtyEight” ANALYSIS VERSUS “RESEARCH AND POLLING” ANALYSIS
FiveThirtyEight rates the new District 1 now held by Democrat Melanie Stansbury of Albuquerque as a Democratic-leaning congressional district. Research & Polling Inc. analysis found that the new district will lean about 7% points toward Democrats. The political performance measures for the last 10 years by Research and Polling estimated at 53.5% Democratic and 46.5% Republican.
FiveThirtyEight rates District 2 now held by Republican Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo as “highly competitive”. According to Research & Polling analysis of past elections, Democrats will have a 6%-point Democratic lean.
FiveThirtyEight rates District 3 now held by Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe as “highly competitive”. However, Research & Polling analysis finds a 12% Democratic lean.
Links to quoted news source material are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Aside from the expected initial dustup after passage of the new Congressional Districts plans, what happened this year was very tame to what happened 10 years ago and the extensive amount of litigation. With the 2022 midterms for United States Congress looming large, initial national polling is reflecting that the Democrat majorities in both the House and in the United States Senate are in danger. Complicating matters is that President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are hitting a low of around 36%.
In the United State House of Representatives, Democrats have a very slim majority of 5. The defeat of Republican Trump supporter Representative Yvette Herrell is being predicted by many but her defeat will not be enough to keep the United States House of Representatives in Democrat control. In the United State Senate, the chamber is split 50-50 with Democrats in control only because of Vice President Kamal Harris being the tie breaker.
New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich is not up for election until 2024 and Senator Ben Ray Lujan is not up for election until 2026. No doubt Senator Martin Heinrich realizes that if the Senate Majority is returned to Republican control in the 2022 midterms, he will be faced with a very difficult reelection in 2024, especially if Der Führer Trump is again running for President.
New Mexico Democrats may have shot themselves in the foot with redistricting. The New Mexico legislature has now made 2 out of the 3 congressional districts competitive, when 2 out of 3 were solid Democrat before redistricting. This was all done in order to get rid of Der Führer Trump Southern Congresswoman Yvette Herrell and only time will tell if it was really worth it.
Let the 2022 midterms begin!