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New Mexico will have three newly drawn U.S. congressional districts thanks to a bill signed into law Dec. 17 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces and two colleagues from Albuquerque, potentially erases a Republican stronghold in the 2nd Congressional District that includes Las Cruces and all of southern New Mexico.
“For 20 years I’ve worked to erase the chosen boundaries, which historically assigned southern New Mexico to the Republicans in exchange for the north assigned to Democrats. This plan rejects that past thinking, mixes urban and rural areas and will bring us together as a state,” Cervantes said in a text to the Bulletin.
Cervantes was the bill’s chief sponsor and is chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee. He served 12 years in the New Mexico House of Representatives, 2001-12 and was elected to the state Senate in 2013. This year’s redistricting special session is his third as a legislator.
The new map balances the populations of the three districts to within single digits; each is just above or just below 705,840 residents. The new District 2 is 56.6 percent Hispanic, 33.3 percent white, 4.9 percent Native American. 1.9 percent Black and 1.2 percent Asian; District 1 is 37.3 percent Hispanic, 49.6 percent white, 3.9 percent Native American. 2.4 percent Black and 2.9 percent Asian; District 3 is 40 percent Hispanic, 38.3 percent white, 16.5 percent Native American. 1.3 percent Black and 1.2 percent Asian.
The New Mexico Legislature’s website (nmlegis.gov) says the new District 2 has a 53-47 percent preference for Democrats over Republicans, while the figure is 54-46 Democrats over Republicans in District 1 and 55.4-44.6 percent in favor of Democrats in District 3.
The website fivethirtyeight.com (538) agrees the new map gives Democrats a statistical edge in all three districts, but says Republican chances of winning districts 1 and 3 are improved.
“The finalized map makes it easier for Democrats to capture the 2nd District,” the website said, with the district moving from a partisan lean of R+14 to D+4. “The tradeoff, however, is that the 3rd District becomes more competitive,” 538 said, going from a partisan lean of D+14 to D+5. District 1 moves from D+18 to D+11, according to 538, which says it uses “data and evidence to advance public knowledge.”
District 1 is represented by Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat from Albuquerque who won the seat in a June special election to succeed Deb Haaland, who was appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior in the Biden administration. District 2 is represented by Yvette Herrell, a Republican from Alamogordo, who won the seat in 2020. District 3 is held by Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe, who won the seat in 2020 after former U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan gave it up to run successfully for the U.S. Senate.
The Legislature began a special session Dec. 6 to redraw congressional, state Public Education Commission and state Senate and House districts based on the 2020 census.
The state Senate passed the congressional redistricting bill with 25 Democrats voting yes and 15 Republicans voting no. Democrat Bobby Gonzales of Ranchos de Taos was excused from the vote and Republican Greg Schmedes of Tijeras (Bernalillo County) was absent.
In the House, the bill passed with 44 Democrats voting for it and 23 Republicans and one Democrat voting against it. State Rep. Candie Sweetser of Deming was the only Democrat to vote against the bill in either house. State Reps. Phelps Anderson, an independent from Roswell, and Republican Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales were excused from the vote.
The news release from the governor’s office announcing her signature on the congressional redistricting bill said, “according to the New Mexico House of Representatives, the map is a ‘nearly 90 percent reflection’ of what was called the ‘People’s Map,’ produced by an independent Citizens Redistricting Committee.” Lujan Grisham held the 1st Congressional seat for six years before being elected governor in 2019.
“The maps Gov. Lujan Grisham signed into law are nothing more than a Democratic power grab and a clear attempt to put New Mexico’s congressional districts in the clutches of Democrats,” state Republican Party Chair Steve Pearce said in a news release. Pearce held the 2nd Congressional Seat for 14 years.
“Significant changes were made, with Democrats in one instance saying they needed to follow the Citizen Redistricting Committee’s (CRC) suggestion and in another case they tossed the CRC aside,” said state Rep. Luis Terrazas,” a Santa Clara (Grant County) Republican who represents parts of Grant, Sierra and Doña Ana counties. “Hypocrisy is nothing new in Santa Fe, but I was on the front line working to ensure our community has fair representation and a voice in Santa Fe. Time will tell if this matter goes to the courts, but for now I have voted in the best way I could to voice concerns I have heard from within our community.”
During a 2011 redistricting special session, the legislature could not agree on a congressional redistricting bill. In 2001, the Democratic-controlled legislature passed a congressional redistricting bill, but it was vetoed by then Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican. In both cases, congressional redistricting was decided by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Visit nmlegis.gov/Redistricting2021/. To read the bill that Lujan Grisham signed into law, visit nmlegis.gov/, click on “legislation” and “legislation by number.” Under “Session” enter 2021 2nd Special (the default), under “Chamber” click on Senate, under “Type,” click on Bill and under “Number,” enter 1. Then click “Search.”