Home News Local News Controversial redistricting map passes Senate committee

Controversial redistricting map passes Senate committee

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AP Photo In this file photo, people gather outside the state capitol building on March 30 in Santa Fe. Political boundaries are being redrawn by New Mexico's Democrat-led Legislature in a sparsely populated state where Hispanics and Native Americans account for roughly six in 10 residents. The Legislature convened Monday to forge new district boundaries for three congressional districts and 112 seats in the state Legislature, along with a Public Education Commission that oversees charter schools.

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Despite pleas from current and former legislators from southeastern New Mexico, a proposed map that splits oil patch and agricultural communities between two congressional districts was approved Wednesday by a state Senate committee.

The proposal, introduced as Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) by state Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, passed the Senate Rules Committee on a 7-4 party-line vote.

“Redistricting is a very, very difficult proposition for anybody and hopefully it’s done with as much common sense and care for people as we can, but I do think this is not as good of a map as we could have done,” said state Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, a member of the committee.

The map is one of many drafted and considered during a special legislative session focused on redefining the state’s political boundaries.

The map would move several counties out of the 2nd Congressional District — now comprised of the lower half of the state and represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell — and place them in the staunchly Democratic 3rd District represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez.

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Under SB 1, De Baca and Guadalupe counties, southern Roosevelt County and all but one precinct in Chaves County would we be shifted from the 2nd to the 3rd congressional district. Eddy and Lea counties would be split between the 2nd and 3rd districts, while Lincoln and Sandoval counties and the northern portion of the Mescalero Apache reservation would be added to the 1st District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury.

Parts of Albuquerque’s west side and unincorporated areas of the South Valley would be shifted to the 2nd District.

Cervantes said SB 1 is a more accurate representation of the 2nd District, which is more complex then the Republican stronghold it is often viewed as, and would bridge New Mexico’s rural-urban divide.

“One of the goals is to do that, to look to the people who would represent us in Congress, who would have to reach out to both rural and urban communities of interest,” he said.

Some individuals who offered public comment during the hearing argued the newly configured districts would provide better representation for the Hispanic population in southeast New Mexico that is often overlooked.

Republicans from southeast New Mexico objected to the map. State Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, whose hometown would be split under the plan, called the notion that Hispanics are overlooked in Lea county “an incorrect narrative.”

“At the end of the day using the Hispanic population in Lea County as an excuse to move us into CD-3 is disingenuous and wrong,” she said.

Kernan called the proposal an injustice to her constituents and the oil industry — which communities in her district rely on as a source of jobs and budget revenue — by placing it in the 3rd Congressional District, where constituents and voters are less supportive of it.

Others critics said they believe the communities of interest being looked at concentrated too much on race.

Former state Sen. Timothy Jennings of Roswell, who also spoke at the meeting, said conditions in southeast New Mexico are vastly different than the northern parts of the state.

“We are all agriculture-based and extractive industries-based so I hope you would not cut that up,” Jennings said. He added that a large portion of the workforce in those industries is Hispanic.

State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said the proposal would disenfranchise rural communities by placing them in the same district as Santa Fe, areas of the state that have little in common. He added that the map would likely only exacerbate political divisions within the state.

“It is going to polarize more and more the state of New Mexico beyond what it is now — the people of Roswell, Artesia and Hobbs feeling as if they don’t have a voice because we swing up and pull in Santa Fe.”

Cervantes said that those expressing concern over political divisions are being disingenuous, and made reference to Herrell, who is known as an unwavering backer of former President Donald Trump.

“My God, look at the congressperson who represents me today and tell me we do not have partisanship at an extreme representing southern New Mexico right now,” Cervantes said.

SB 1 next moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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