Tag Archives: Albuquerque

The New Mexico Ploy

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2021 — During the last week reports were surfacing that suggested the New Mexico State Democratic leadership was considering ways to turn the current 2D-1R congressional map into a 3D-0R plan. This might be easier said than done, however.

New Mexico is one of the Democrats’ 15 “trifecta states,” meaning the party controls all three legs of the redistricting stool: the state Senate, state House, and governor’s mansion. Republicans have 23 trifectas. Therefore, if the Democrats are to minimize the redistricting damage, or even possibly come out slightly ahead, they must fully use their political leverage in the states they control.

Of the Democrats’ 15 trifectas, however, five of the states handle redistricting through a commission, and in another five the party already controls all the congressional seats. Therefore, if they are to make a national redistricting play they must take maximum advantage in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. The lay of the land, however, makes it very difficult to expand their fortunes in Nevada and possibly Oregon, which is why trying to take an extra seat from New Mexico makes some sense from a national Democratic perspective.

New Mexico has three congressional seats, all of which a freshman represents. The 1st (Rep. Melanie Stansbury; D-Albuquerque) and 3rd Districts (Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; D-Santa Fe) in the northern part of the state are safely Democratic.

The southern 2nd District (Rep. Yvette Herrell; R-Alamogordo), which encompasses almost all of the territory south of Albuquerque, has performed as a Republican seat at the congressional level in 19 of the last 21 elections. Democrats picked up the district in their recent wave election years (2006; 2018) with open seat victories, but the voters favored the Republican challenger in both successive elections. This, despite NM-2 being a majority Hispanic district: 53.7 percent of the overall population according to the previous census data.

Additionally, the current seats are not widely out of population balance. The 1st District needs to gain just 11,264 people, while the 2nd must shed 8,181 individuals, and the 3rd must relinquish 3,082 residents. Therefore, a radical re-draw that results in a sweep of the three districts for one party when the population swings are so small would certainly draw a political gerrymandering lawsuit upon adoption of the new map. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed of course is a question that can only be answered when the final map is drawn and enacted.

Likely, the only way to draw a 3D-0R map in New Mexico would be to keep the northern 3rd District Democratic seat virtually intact, and then draw the Republican 2nd into Albuquerque. This would cause the city and Bernalillo County to be split resulting in the 1st and 2nd then appearing as southwestern and southeastern seats that divide Albuquerque, and subsequently stretch all the way to the Mexican border.

Even this draw might make it difficult to create three Democratic seats because the southeastern district would still have the potential of being Republican enough to make the party’s candidate, in this case Rep. Herrell, strong enough to have a chance of winning a general election.

New Mexico is a good example as how a largely internal state exercise can transform itself to help achieve a national partisan goal. It remains to be seen just how bold the New Mexico Democrats will be, as this small and sometimes obscure state steps into the national redistricting limelight.

NM-1: A Pattern?

By Jim Ellis

Albuquerque, New Mexico-anchored NM-1 Congressional District

June 4, 2021 — Several media reports — typified by an MSNBC website analysis article that Steve Benen authored after Tuesday’s New Mexico special election — are trying to make the point that Melanie Stansbury’s landslide victory is a potential benchmark for future Democratic victories. Such a conclusion is a stretch.

The two-pronged premise is that Stansbury was so strong that she even ran ahead of President Biden’s performance in the district, and that the Republican campaign’s emphasis on the crime problem and the national effort to defund the police proved a political failure.

While Stansbury, a two-term state representative, scored a 60-36 percent win in the Albuquerque anchored congressional district that former Rep. Deb Haaland (D) resigned to become US Interior Secretary, her performance is not unusual. In fact, her vote total was less than two points above the mean average Democratic congressional percentage since the party converted the seat from the Republicans back in 2008.

To the argument that Stansbury’s victory margin was larger than President Biden’s 60-37 percent spread against then-President Trump, and it was only one percentage point better, it is not unusual for a House campaign to outperform the top of the ticket. In most instances, the congressional winner is better known than his or her competitor, has greater funding and outside support, and is consistently in position to overwhelm the opposition. Such is rarely the case in a national presidential campaign or in a major statewide contest for senator or governor.

The crime issue was certainly a focal point of Republican nominee Mark Moores, an Albuquerque state senator. The national party, however, did very little to support Moores, virtually conceding the race from the outset based upon the voting history here for more than a decade.

For an underdog candidate in Moores position, emphasizing the crime issue, on paper, made sense as a point of attack. Albuquerque, according to FBI statistics has the ninth worst violent crime statistics in the country, meaning 1,352 crimes per 100,000 residents according to the latest available figures (2019). To put this number in perspective, Chicago, which has drawn much national media attention for its high murder rate, ranks 31st on the same scale, at 943 crimes per 100,000 city residents.

Perhaps one reason the crime issue did not propel the Moores candidacy is there was no serious effort to defund the Albuquerque Police Department, nor is there the sharp racial tension that is present in some of the cities where we saw serious problems along with a local movement to reorder policing.

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NM-1: New Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2020 — Late last week, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he is nominating New Mexico US Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) to be Interior Secretary. Upon confirmation, Rep. Haaland will resign her seat in the House, which will become the body’s third vacancy.

Biden has already chosen Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to run the White House Office of Public Engagement and become Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, respectively.

Special elections will be held in all three districts and scheduled once the member officially resigns to accept his or her new position. Democrats will be prohibitive favorites in Louisiana and Ohio, but it’s possible the New Mexico seat could become competitive.

Haaland was first elected to what was an open district in 2018 when then-Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) risked the 1st District House seat to wage an ultimately successful campaign for Governor. Grisham was first elected to the House in 2012 in an open seat campaign. She succeeded then-Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who won a Senate seat in the same election.

Prior to Heinrich’s initial House win in 2008, the 1st District congressional seat, anchored in Albuquerque, had been in Republican hands for 40 consecutive years in the person of Reps. Manuel Lujan, Steve Schiff, and Heather Wilson, consecutively. Though the district has significantly changed politically, it has largely kept its same basic geographic context during the entire aforementioned stretch. Prior to the 1968 election, New Mexico’s representatives were chosen in at-large elections.

Once Haaland, one of the first Native American females to be elected to the House, resigns, Gov. Grisham will schedule a special election. Under New Mexico procedure, the political parties will caucus to choose their nominees, so there will be no primary election. Therefore, it is probable to see a contested convention process for both parties, particularly for the Democrats since their eventual nominee will begin the special election campaign in the favorite’s position.

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