The New Mexico state House advanced a proposal on Saturday that would redraw the state’s congressional districts to group a sizable portion of the urban Albuquerque area with rural areas in the south with a 44-24 along party lines. The map proposal now heads to the governor’s desk for approval.
Sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, SB 1 would also put a southwest section of Albuquerque into a district with southern cities including Las Cruces and Alamogordo and group a portion of Roswell and the towns of Lovington and Artesia with northern cities like Farmington and Santa Fe.
Hours earlier, the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee approved the proposal on a 6-2 party-line vote
Louis told the committee that the bill, if passed, would ensure that all social, economic and political interests would be better served by members of Congress.
“Really what we’re doing here is ensuring that our congressional folks now will have both rural and urban instead of making that rural urban split,” Louis said. “It also increases the Hispanic voter age population in the southern districts, and it’s really about giving voters the choice.”
Those who spoke during the public comment period of the committee meeting repeated sentiments of both support and opposition from previous hearings. Some in support of the bill said it would strengthen Hispanic, Latino and Native American voices, whereas others said it would dilute political voices.
During the floor debate on the proposal, Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, who argued during the committee meeting that SB 1 was an “assault on the rural parts of the state,” unsuccessfully tried to replace the map with a recommended map submitted by the newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee. About half of the floor debate focused on Nibert’s proposed substitution, and largely consisted of supportive comments from Republicans. Nibert’s proposal was tabled on a 40-22 vote.
The rest of the debate consisted mostly of Democrats praising the map proposal as a way for congressional delegates to learn more about varying interests and concerns within their respective districts.
Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said he appreciated that the map proposal would put an oil rich section of the state into all three congressional districts. Oil and gas production, Maestas said, helps “not only coffers, but communities down south.”
“What’s great about this map is that all of our congressional members, for the next ten years, will represent folks in or near the Permian Basin,” Maestas said.
Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, said when she was elected to represent both Los Alamos and the more rural Rio Arriba County, she was forced to learn more about the rural areas outside of her home county. Chandler argued that the congressional map concept would do the same for members of congress.
“Have I benefited from that? Yes I have,” Chandler said. “And has my constituency benefited from that? Yes they have.”
Members of the New Mexico Acequia Association, however, have repeatedly stated that they oppose SB 1, for the same reasons Maestas and Chandler praised it. Earlier in the day the association’s executive director Paula Garcia said grouping Hobbs and Artesia with areas in Rio Arriba County would create a district that is “heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry.”
SB 1 now heads to the governor’s desk for her signature.