By Matthew Reichbach
The full Senate passed a redistricting bill that would pit two sets of incumbents against each other, including two from the same party. The bill passed the Senate on a party line vote with all Democrats voting for the bill and all Republicans voting against it.
Republicans were not on board with the proposal in any way.
The proposal would put Sens. William Burt (R-Alamogordo) and Rod Adair (R-Roswell) in the same district. the bill would move Burt’s district into Rio Rancho, the fastest-growing part of the state. Rural areas have either stayed the same in population or lost population while urban areas, especially west of the river in Albuquerque’s metro area, have grown at a faster pace than the rest of the state.
Burt expressed concern that Alamogordo will not be represented fairly.
“If Senator Adair and Senator [Vernon] Asbill (R-Carlsbad) end up representing Alamogordo, that would just be wrong,” Burt said. He added this is not because of Adair or Asbill themselves but because neither reside in Alamogordo.
The district that is moved from southeastern New Mexico would move to a part of Rio Rancho that has more registered Republicans (42.8 percent) than Democrats (38.2 percent).
Sens. Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque) and John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) would also be placed in the same district. Ryan’s current district, which stretches from Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights into portions of Rio Rancho, would move fully over to the westside.
The districts of Sens. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) and Eric Griego (D-Albuquerque) would also be combined. Griego is not running for reelection and is instead running for congress in Albuquerque’s 1st Congressional District.
Republicans also raised the possibility that Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, would veto the legislation. This would likely result in a court battle that would be costly to the state. The last time the state went to court when then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, vetoed House and Congressional redistricting in 1991. It ended up costing the state over $3.5 million in court costs.
Johnson also vetoed the Senate redistricting, but the Senate was able to go back and find a compromise bill before the Senate was up for election in 2004.
“Maybe, for some twisted reason, we have to start with something like this before we get reasonable,” Ryan said. “This is not reasonable.”
Democrats largely let the Republicans take the floor to speak about the bill. Only sponsor Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana) spoke in support of the bill before its passage.
“There are going to be losers. There are going to be those who will gain and that is the nature of the business that we are in at this point in time with redistricting,” said Lopez according to the Associated Press.
Afterward, Sen. John Sapien (D-Bernalillo) released a statement on Facebook saying that the map reflects the population shifts in the state of New Mexico over the past decade.
“Albuquerque and Rio Rancho have both experienced significant growth,” Sapien wrote. “These factors have led to the decisions regarding redistricting.”
According to the 2010 Census, 40 percent of the population growth statewide during the last decade occurred in a 20-mile narrow strip on the west side of Albuquerque.