By Jim Ellis
Dec. 15, 2021 — Though only a three-congressional district state, New Mexico is playing an important role in the 2021 redistricting cycle. The state is one of only four where Democrats fully control the redistricting process and can make gains.
The map that passed the legislature Monday and which was immediately sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) for her signature appears to clinch the one-seat gain that national Democrats need from the state. On the other hand, it is likely that at least one of their current seats becomes more vulnerable.
Though Democrats have 15 legislative trifectas — that is where they hold the offices of governor, state Senate, and state House of Representatives — they effectively have only four for redistricting. In five of their trifecta states, redistricting has been sent to a citizens or politician (New Jersey) commission. In another six, they are maxed, meaning the Democrats already have all the seats that they can possibly win in each domain.
Ironically, the current Land of Enchantment map needed only minor adjustments to bring the redistricting plan into legal population compliance. The state’s per district resident quota is 705,841 individuals, and the three current districts were only between 3,082 and 11,290 people away from being in full compliance. Districts 2 and 3 needed to shed a combined 11,290 individuals to District 1, and the map would have balanced.
Instead, the Democratic leadership made major changes all centered around transforming freshman Rep. Yvette Herrell’s (R-Alamogordo) 2nd CD into a Democratic advantage. The US Department of Justice just filed suit against the Texas redistricting map under a partisan gerrymander argument, so it is curious to see whether they follow the same course and bring forth a similar partisan gerrymander lawsuit in New Mexico and Illinois, places where Democrats control the redistricting pen.
New Mexico is also interesting in that all three of the state’s delegation members, Reps. Melanie Stansbury, (D-Albuquerque) and Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-Santa Fe), as well as Herrell, are freshmen. In fact, Stansbury is even behind the other two in seniority since she won her seat in a June 1 special election to replace resigned Rep. Deb Haaland (D), who left the House to become US Interior Secretary in the Biden Administration.
For the first time, the redesigned New Mexico congressional map splits the state’s dominant city of Albuquerque. Drawing the southern 2nd District into the Albuquerque metropolitan area provides the Democrats the ability to enhance the party’s chances of flipping the seat. Throughout New Mexico’s history, the city has been fully contained within the 1st Congressional District.