December 11, 2021

Congressional map proposal approved by NM Senate, heads to House

The New Mexico state Senate approved a proposal to redraw the state’s congressional districts by a 25-15 vote on Friday evening. All Republican members voted against the measure, with independent Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque joining Republicans. 

SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, would move congressional district boundaries to group southeastern cities like Artesia, Portales and Clovis with municipalities in the northwest corner of the state into the Third Congressional District. Most of the Albuquerque-metro area would be grouped with southern towns and villages like Carrizozo and Capitan into the First Congressional District. The state’s Second Congressional District would group southern cities like Alamogordo and Las Cruces with a southwestern part of Albuquerque. 

The proposal began as a reworking of one of the concepts recommended by the newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee and hours before the floor debate, Cervantes convinced the Senate Judiciary to approve changes that brought it closer to the redistricting committee’s recommendation. The original recommendation, officially known as Congressional Concept H, but commonly referred to as “the people’s map” was crafted by a coalition of community advocacy groups. The idea, the coalition has said, was to group “communities of interest” and create a majority Hispanic and Latino district. 

Throughout the redistricting process, Republicans have alleged that the coalition paid members of the public to speak in favor of the map during public redistricting hearings. The group has repeatedly said they offered stipends for those who wanted to speak at meetings as a way to offset childcare and travel costs, but that no one asked for or received compensation. Cervantes also maintains that he did not work with the advocacy groups, but instead used Concept H as a template. 

During a brief Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday, Cervantes said he received numerous requests to adopt Concept H instead of his reworked version. 

“We heard some of the concerns that were expressed of the committee and took some of them to heart even after passing the bill. Some of the comments focused very much on the effort that went into the CRC process,” Cervantes told committee members. “We took those to heart as well, and went back and looked at some of the maps and tried to move in a direction closer to CRC concept H, and began to work more closely off of that map.”

Still, his map received public criticism, namely from the New Mexico Acequia Association, whose spokesperson said the group would have preferred the redistricting committee’s Congressional Concept E, which kept Albuquerque and Rio Rancho in one urban district. 

That concept came up again on the Senate floor during Friday night’s debate when Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, unsuccessfully tried to substitute SB 1 with Concept E. 

“This map creates, really, what is the most common sense split in New Mexico,” Moores told the body. “This is a Rio Rancho-Albuquerque, centralized CD 1.”

Supporters of Cervantes’ proposal have argued that grouping Albuquerque’s rural south valley with other rural parts of southern New Mexico creates a community of interest. 

Mooers said his proposed substitute bill did that as well. 

“This map puts the unincorporated parts of the south valley in CD 2, in respect of that testimony that they had, but left the urban areas of the west side as best as possible into the urban CD 1 district,” Moores said. 

Candelaria, who split from the Democratic Party on the first day of the special session and who announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection, criticized Cervantes’ bill for splitting up parts of his district on the westside of Albuquerque. Poorer parts of Albuquerque, Candelaria argued, would be separated from more affluent areas. Candelaria called Moore’s substitution a “major concession,” but said he preferred it to the original bill. 

“I just want to share with folks that the original bill chops up the westside of Albuquerque in a way that does not make sense if you live on the westside of Albuquerque,” Candelaria said. 

Sen. Brenda McKenna, D-Corrales, who is from Nambé Pueblo, criticized Moore’s proposed substitution for splitting the Pueblo of Zuni into two different districts and putting the pueblos of Acoma and Laguna into the Third Congressional District, after, McKenna said, all three pueblos requested they be in the Second Congressional District. 

“I cannot support this map because it does violate the wishes of Zuni, Acoma and Laguna, who wish to be in CD 2 as well,” McKenna said. 

Moores substitution failed 15-25, with Candelaria voting with Republicans. 

SB1 now heads to the House for committee assignments.