New Mexico Senate endorses Democrats’ redistricting map
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Legislature pushed forward Friday with Democratic-sponsored redistricting plans to draw new political boundaries for three congressional seats and the state House after the state Senate approved the plan.
The Senate voted 25-15 in support for the redistricting plan from Democratic state Sen. Joseph Cervantes that bolsters the Hispanic majority to 56% in New Mexico’s southern 2nd District and divides a conservative, oil-producing region into multiple districts. The proposal now moves to the Democrat-led House for consideration.
Cervantes said his plan brings together rural and urban communities in all districts to better reflect the overall composition of the state.
“Let’s reimagine a New Mexico where our districts include rural and urban areas,” said Cervantes, whose plan would extend the southern 2nd congressional district to incorporate heavily Hispanic portions of western and southern Albuquerque.
The changes would provide Democrats with an advantage over Republicans in all three districts, to varying degrees.
Republicans were unified in their opposition. GOP state Sen. David Gallegos of Eunice said the proposed congressional map would dilute the influence of his constituents in southeastern New Mexico by pairing the heavily Democratic city of Santa Fe with the conservative oilfield community of Hobbs, which is hundreds of miles away.
“I just feel like we’ll lose all representation,” Gallegos said.
The state’s southern 2nd District has been historically dominated by Republicans. Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, won the district in 2020 by ousting a one-term Democrat.
Republicans need a net gain of just five seats in 2022 to take control of the U.S. House and effectively freeze President Joe Biden’s agenda on everything from climate change to the economy.
Unaffiliated state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, who was a Democrat until this week, sided with Republicans.
He warned that urban Hispanics in Albuquerque stand to lose political influences over key political priorities, such as urban crime and traffic — even if they bolster the Hispanic majority in the 2nd District that extends to remote stretches of the U.S. border with Mexico.
The proposed congressional map from Democrats closely resembles a redistricting plan promoted by the progressive-leaning Center for Civil Policy group that promotes greater representation for disadvantaged communities.
The center and a coalition of advocacy groups have called for a stronger Latino majority in the state’s southern district, arguing that the region’s minority populations feel overlooked by politicians.
Two of the state’s congressional seats have been held by Democrats for more than a decade. Democrats hold the upper hand in New Mexico’s redistricting process because they control the governor’s office and have broad majorities in the state House and Senate.
Also Friday, the state House voted 43 to 23 to approve new political boundaries for its members, amid an hourslong debate on a Democratic-sponsored bill. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The House redistricting plan from Rep. Damon Ely of Corrales would shore up Native American voting majorities in six districts across the heavily Indigenous northwestern region of the state.
Republican House members have said that the map, promoted in the name of robust minority representation, would gut the districts of two GOP legislators — a Latino and a Black woman.
Republican House minority leader James Townsend of Artesia urged the House to reconsider.
“She deserves the rights and consideration that you said was important to you,” he said, referring to Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales.
Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.