New Mexico's Redistricting News

 


 Delta Farm Press: "Elections Overshadow Pending Congressional Actions." September 1, 2004.
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Senator Raises Redistricting Possibility." August 8, 2003
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Senate Committee Endorses Redistricting Plan." March 12, 2003
 KRQE News 13: "Committee Passes Redistricting Plan That Favors Democrats." March 12, 2003
 Santa Fe New Mexican : "Johnson signs off on redistricting-bill compromise." March 6, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican : "$2.9 million sought to pay for fight over redistricting." March 5, 2002
 Albuquerque Tribune : "Aragon chatter gives Johnson 20 days to chew on redistricting plan." February 11, 2002
 Albuquerque Tribune : "Senators unhappy with redistricting map could seek House support." February 2, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "City Council Agrees to Redraw Districts." January 15, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Lawyer: Plans show signs of gerrymandering." January 15, 2002
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines." January 14, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Legislature's consultant: Judge needs to create Hispanic seats." January 10, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Redistricting Plan Pairs House Seats." January 9, 2002
 Albuquerque Tribune: "Neither party gains much from judicial restraint." January 9, 2002
 Albuquerque Tribune: "Navajo Nation Speaker Airs Tribes Redistricting Wishes." January 7, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Redistricting Battle May Prove Pricey." January 7, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Thirteen Republicans Paired In Plan Advocated by Democrats." January 3, 2002
 Albuquerque Tribune: "Democrats tentative on districts challenge." January 3, 2002
 Washington Post: "New Mexico Plan Rejected." January 3, 2002
 Santa Fe New Mexican: "Congressional Map Barely Changes." January 3, 2002

 Albuquerque Tribune: "Redistricting Decision Expected From Judge." January 2, 2002
 Albuquerque Journal: "Judge Turns Down Majority Hispanic District In Redistricting Case." January 2, 2002
 Amarillo Globe-News: "Aide: Johnson didn't back remap plan." December 20, 2001

More New Mexico Redistricting News from October 16-December 17, 2001

More New Mexico Redistricting News from April 24-October 15, 2001

Delta Farm Press
Elections Overshadow Pending Congressional Actions
By Hembree Brandon
September 1, 2004

Congress is slated to return from recess Sept. 7, but with a targeted adjournment date of Oct. 1, that leaves very few legislative days to get a huge amount of work done, says John Maguire of the National Cotton Councils Washington office.

Given that timetable and pressures attendant to the national elections, the likelihood is that not a lot of bills will see completion, he told members of the Cotton Foundation and the American Cotton Producers Association at their joint meeting at Albuquerque, N.M.

Action or inaction will have an impact on agriculture, he says.

People in the oilseeds and corn sector are very interested in the fuels provision of the energy legislation. The transportation bill, involving roads, bridges, and infrastructure is very important to the nation, and for the jobs involved.

Miscellaneous tariffs legislation, which would waive tariffs on critical components imported into the United States, has been tied up for a couple of years, Maguire says. Among its many provisions are some related to textiles and one thats very important to the ELS cotton sector.

Also, some of our friends in the crop protection sector have components theyd like to import, and failure to pass this bill is costing them millions of dollars.

The Foreign Sales Corporation/Extra Territorial Income legislation has very significant benefits for manufacturing, and weve been working with the textile sector to see if we can get some assistance to them through this bill, Maguire says. It also includes provisions for the tobacco buyout, so the future of that may be tied to the FSC/ETI legislation.

Other issues awaiting action, he says, are tax breaks for the middle class, which will expire at the end of this year (The debate is whether to extend them for a short time or to make them permanent.) and immigration reform (If you asked me to guess if well get immigration reform this year, Id have to say, Probably not.).

The forthcoming national elections, Maguire says, will affect congressional agendas, committee structures, and policy issues.

With the present Republican majority in the House and the races in play, he says it is fairly unlikely Democrats can retake control. Theyd have to pick up 11 seats, and with redistricting in Texas probably going to result in five additional Republican seats, Republicans have a potential 26-seat majority.

If Republicans continue to hold a House majority, I wouldnt anticipate many changes in leadership, Maguire says. Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois would continue as speaker; Rep. Tom Delay of Texas as majority leader; Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia would chair the Agriculture Committee; Rep. Bill Young of Florida would chair appropriations; Henry Bonilla of Texas the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee; and Rep. Mike Thompson of California, Ways and Means.

The outlook is a bit more complex for the Senate, now composed of 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Up for re-election are 15 Republicans, 19 Democrats.

As I try privately to assess the way things are going, I quite frequently come up with a 50-50 split. You can also make the case that Republicans will pick up two seats or that Democrats will gain two. With so many toss-ups right now, its difficult to predict.

With a 50-50 Senate, the party that wins the White House determines who would cast tie-breaker votes, either Vice President Dick Cheney or Vice President John Edwards.

It would really get interesting with a Kerry/Edwards win, Maguire says. Sen. Kerry would have to resign from the Senate, leaving 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats. The governor of Massachusetts is Republican and the legislature there has passed binding legislation to prohibit the governor from appointing a replacement for Mr. Kerry if he becomes president.

A special election would be held in April to name Kerrys successor.

We could theoretically see, with a Kerry administration, a Senate that would be 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats until April which would mean President Kerry would be trying to get his cabinet nominees confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate.

There is an agreement between Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., that in such a situation the two parties would share funding for the committees and split committee memberships 50-50. The Senate would have to agree to put that resolution in place, and theres some question as to how it might work.

But as closely divided as this country is politically, its not unfathomable to imagine a situation in which the Senate goes from Republican to Democrat to Republican within the next year.

With a Republican majority, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee would remain as leader. One key change would occur, however, with Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is term-limited as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is the next most senior member, Maguire notes, so he would leave the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee and move to Appropriations. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas would be next in line to take over the Agriculture Committee.

With a Democrat majority in the Senate, Daschle (if he wins re-election) would become leader; Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa likely would become chairman of the Agriculture Committee again; Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia would head the Appropriations Committee; and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana would chair the Finance Committee.

In the race for president, Maguire says, I think 40 percent of voters probably have decided for the Republicans and 40 percent for the Democrats, with 10 percent undecided. The key will be undecided voters in the swing states. At this point, I think its too close to even begin to try to call.

All the national polls are very interesting, but this isnt a national election its 50 state elections for president being held the same day. It doesnt really matter at this point what the overall national polls say; its very important what happens in the individual states.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Senator Raises Redistricting Possibility
By The Associated Press
August 8, 2003

ALBUQUERQUE State Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero has asked Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature to give the idea of redistricting your most serious consideration.

Romero, D-Albuquerque, last week sent a letter to Democrats saying that redrawing lines for the states three congressional districts would be good for Democrats, especially with efforts in Texas and Colorado to redraw districts to favor Republicans.

Do we smile tolerantly and sit still and let them strong-arm a substantial margin of power in the House? he wrote in the letter obtained by The Albuquerque Tribune. Or do we fight back, employing the same tactics they used in Colorado and Texas, under rights defined by a New Mexico judge.

New Mexicos congressional redistricting plan went to court after the Democratic-controlled Legislature and former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson could not agree on new boundaries based on the 2000 census.

Romero contends the judge left the door open for the Legislature to redraw the maps.

New Mexico Senate Republicans objected when Democrats raised the possibility of redistricting during the regular session earlier this year.

The Republicans said the court settled the matter when it drew new congressional boundaries and that the voters spoke in elections afterward. That was the same argument used by Texas Senate Democrats who bolted to New Mexico to break a quorum and prevent Texas Republicans from pushing through new districts.

Romero who unsuccessfully ran against Republican U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson last year said during the session that lawmakers have the right to reopen redistricting because the issue was not decided by the Legislature and the governor.

We already had an election last November under the existing plan, which was approved by a judge, Enrique Carlos Knell, spokesman for Wilson, said when the issue was raised in February. Trying to reopen this again after voters have already been to the polls is clearly not fair.

Gov. Bill Richardson told a news conference with the Texas Democrats last week that he believes redistricting should be done once in a decade.

Richardson said he could call a redistricting session in New Mexico, since hes a Democratic governor with a majority Democratic Legislature.

And while he said he was leaving the door slightly ajar on the issue because of Republican efforts led by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to redistrict other states, he added: I dont want redistricting. I think it is wrong, especially not in a redistricting year.

House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, said he plans to meet with Richardson soon to tell the governor hes heartened by Richardsons opposition to redistricting.

Redistricting is expensive and time-consuming, and only Romero really wants it, Hobbs said.

The fact is, I think this is a lot of posturing on Romeros part, Hobbs said. Wed fight it tooth and nail.

But, he said, New Mexico Republicans wont take off for a neighboring state.

The New Mexico Legislature has a quorum even without the GOP.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Senate Committee Endorses Redistricting Plan
By Deborah Baker
March 12, 2003

A congressional redistricting map that makes Republican Rep. Heather Wilson's Albuquerque-based district more Democratic cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted the plan to the Senate floor over the objections of Republicans who said lawmakers have no business revisiting court-ordered redistricting.

"This just looks like sour grapes after the election," said Sen. Ramsay Gorham, R-Albuquerque.

Wilson defeated Democrat Richard Romero - the state Senate's president pro tem - in November.

The GOP contends there is no legal basis for redoing redistricting and that a lawsuit is likely if the majority-Democrat Legislature passes it and the Democratic governor signs it.

A plan for New Mexico's three congressional districts was passed by the Legislature in 2001 and vetoed by then-Gov. Gary Johnson. It then went to state district court, was decided in January 2002 and was not appealed.

"Most people would figure, 'Put it to bed,' " said state Republican Chairman John Dendahl. "So it's a great surprise to see the Democrats believe that they can do it one more time."

The plan makes the Albuquerque-based 1st District more Democratic by stretching it north and east, to take in Las Vegas and western San Miguel County, Guadalupe County and Santa Fe County south of Interstate 25.

Albuquerque's west side and some precincts in the city's northeast heights - Republican-leaning areas - would move into Northern New Mexico's heavily Democratic 3rd District.

Curry and Roosevelt counties, currently in the 3rd District, would move to the 2nd District.

The changes would give the proposed 1st District a Democratic performance - meaning the way it historically votes - of 54.1 percent, up from the current 50.1 percent.

Dendahl called it the "Richard Romero relief bill," saying Democrats want a better shot at winning the district next time around.

The 2nd District - where the GOP's Steve Pearce won election in November - would become more Republican-leaning, as would the 3rd District, represented by Democrat Tom Udall.

The plan also consolidates the majority-Indian areas in western New Mexico that were split by the court-ordered congressional plan.

Getting those Indian areas put together in the 3rd District - to increase their clout - was the reason Sen. Leonard Tsosie, D-Crownpoint, introduced a redistricting plan.

He said tribes were disenfranchised by the map the court approved.

KRQE News 13
Committee Passes Redistricting Plan That Favors Dems
March 12, 2003

A Senate committee today endorsed a congressional redistricting plan that puts more Democrats into the Albuquerque-based First Congressional District. That district now is represented by Republican Heather Wilson.

The plan was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. Democrats favored it and Republicans voted against it. The proposal now goes to the full Senate for a vote. Republicans objected that the Legislature has no business redrawing the congressional boundaries that were decided by a court, and that were used in last year's elections.

The plan makes the First District more Democratic by putting parts of San Miguel and Santa Fe counties into the Albuquerque-based district.

The plan also consolidates majority-Indian districts in western New Mexico that were split under the court-ordered plan.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Johnson signs off on redistricting-bill compromise
By Steve Terrell
March 6, 2002

The state avoided a possible court battle over redistricting state Senate seats Tuesday when Gop. Gary Johnson signed a compromise redistricting bill.

Some of the governor's fellow Republicans, including state GOP Chairman John Dendahl, had said Senate Bill 485 would ensure Democrat control over the Senate - where Democrats outnumber Republicans 24-18 - for the next 10 years.

However, the bill was supported by 14 Senate Republicans and a clear majority of House Republicans.

"He signed it? That's amazing," said Senate President Pro-item Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, upon receiving the news from a reporter. Romero was the sponsor of the bill.

Johnson said last week he was leaning toward signing the bill, mainly because of a federal court's recent decision not to overturn a state judge's ruling in the lawsuit over the House redistricting plan.

"It definitely moves the needle," Johnson told reporters last week. "Will (the Senate plan) be any better if it goes to court?

These are questions that we're asking ourselves."

Lawsuits over the redistricting plans vetoed by Johnson last year could cost the state more than $4 million.

State District Judge Frank Allen of Albuquerque - who presided over trials for redistricting plans for the state House of Representatives and New Mexico's boundaries for congressional seats - will decide how legal fees will be distributed and who will pay.

Johnson vetoed all legislative redistricting plans the Legislature passed during a special session in September.

Both parties filed lawsuits concerning redistricting. Allen eventually approved a state House plan that made minimal changes to the current 70 House districts.

Some Senate Democrats wanted the Legislature to wait until next year to draft a Senate redistricting plan. Senators, all of whom are elected to four-year terms, do not run for re-election until 2004.

Democrats who wanted to wait - including Sen. Roman Maes of Santa Fe and Phil Griego of San Jose - expressed the hope a Democrat would be elected governor this year.

Seven Senate Democrats voted against the bill, saying Republicans on the state's east side should have lost some seats because of population shifts.

Sen. Joe Carraro of Albuquerque, one of the four Republicans who voted against the bill, commented on the Senate floor last month about the unusual alliance opposing the compromise.

"Talk about strange bedfellows," Carraro said. "This is a very strange group of people. It'd look like the bar scene in Star Wars if you put us all together."

Santa Fe New Mexican
$2.9 million sought to pay for fight over redistricting
By Barry Massey
March 5, 2002

Taxpayers could end up paying more than $3 million for the legal fight over legislative and congressional redistricting. A state judge has been asked to award $2.9 million in attorneys fees and other expenses related to lawsuits that determined new boundaries of New Mexico's congressional and state House districts.

Those expenses range from fees for experts who testified in trials to charges for copying documents and some long-distance telephone calls. There's also gross-receipts tax on the fees and expenses.

"The numbers are going to look big, but I really don't think anybody was greedy," said David A. Garcia, an Albuquerque lawyer involved in the cases.

The total price tag for redistricting could exceed $4 million because the $2.9 million doesn't reflect the costs of all lawyers in the lawsuits, a pending appeal or more than $1 million in expenses in the Legislature, including work before the battle shifted to the courts.

District Judge Frank Allen Jr. will decide who will be paid fees and how much.

Redistricting ended up before Allen after Republican Gov. Gary Johnson and the Democratic-led Legislature failed to agree on plans for drawing new congressional and House districts. Allen held a two-week trial on congressional redistricting in December and an 11-day trial on House districts in January.

More than two dozen lawyers worked on the lawsuits, and they have asked the court to have their fees paid under a federal law allowing for the awarding of legal expenses to parties who prevail in civil-rights lawsuits.

The redistricting cases featured a wide range of parties: a group of Democrats and minority voters, Hispanic activists, three groups of Republicans, the governor, lieutenant governor, the Legislature, the Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache Nation.

A fight could be brewing in court over who should be paid attorney's fees.

Johnson, in filings last week in state district court, opposed any attorneys receiving fees "considering the economy and tight state budget."

However, the governor said that, if the judge decides fees should be paid, then payments also should be considered for Johnson's private lawyer, James Browning of Albuquerque.

The governor also has asked the judge to require the Legislature to pay for attorney fees that are awarded to any parties in the cases. Johnson contends the Legislature can use its cash balances, which total about $1 million, to help make any payments, Matthew Hoyt, general counsel on the governor's staff, said Monday.

Hoyt said the "principal reason that the redistricting effort failed is the Legislature's inability to pass legally acceptable plans."

In the House case, however, the judge adopted a plan that largely mirrored a proposal passed by the Legislature last year but vetoed by Johnson.

The state judge combined the legislative proposal with boundary recommendations from the Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache Nation for districts in northwestern New Mexico.

In the congressional case, Allen approved districts that followed the recommendations of a group of Republicans. Boundaries of the three congressional districts changed only slightly. The judge turned down a Democratic-backed proposal for creating a majority Hispanic congressional district.

However, federal law provides for a broad definition of a prevailing party in civil-rights cases, which can go beyond the notion of which group's redistricting plan was adopted by the judge.

The largest request for fees and expenses in the two lawsuits, about $666,000, was made by lawyers for a group of Democrats, known as the Jepsen plaintiffs, who brought redistricting lawsuits last September. The group included Reps. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, and Raymond Ruiz, D-Albuquerque.

Browning submitted a request for combined fees and expenses of about $528,600 for the House and congressional cases. That includes 2,475 hours of work by Browning and other lawyers and paralegals in his firm.

Lawyers for the Navajo Nation requested fees and expenses of about $323,000 for the House case.

The smallest request was $172,600 by a group Republicans, whose lawyers included Garcia.

The state Republican Party has paid for some fees of lawyers representing Republicans and the governor. The party raised about $400,000 to cover those expenses, said John Dendahl, chairman of the state GOP.

If lawyers for GOP clients are awarded fees and expenses, the GOP would be reimbursed for any of those costs that it paid, according to Dendahl.

The Legislature also has paid some of the bills of its lawyers, who submitted requests to the court for fees and expenses of about $246,000 in the House case.

Two law firms were hired by the Legislature to serve as legal consultants to the House and Senate starting more than a year ago. The firms also represented legislative leaders who were defendants in the redistricting lawsuits.

John Yaeger of the Legislative Council Service said the Legislature had incurred about $700,000 in legal expenses through January, which includes lawsuit expenses and work before lawsuits were filed.

Even before the redistricting fight shifted to the courts, the state paid $691,000 for a special session of the Legislature last year and had expenses of $697,000 through February for an Albuquerque-based consultant, Research and Polling Inc.

Not included in the $2.9 million in requests to the court are fees that will be paid by the state for lawyers representing Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley. His lawyers have a contract with the risk-management division of the General Services Department. The agency declined to release billing by the lawyers so far because the redistricting legal fight hasn't ended. Johnson and Bradley are appealing the judge's decision in the House case.

Albuquerque Tribune
Aragon chatter gives Johnson 20 days to chew on redistricting plan
By Gilbert Gallegos
February 11, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon delayed action in the Senate today to keep a redistricting plan from going to the governor before noon.

The filibuster, which lasted nearly three hours, was designed to prove a point and slow down the legislative process.

Supporters of the redistricting map, including Senate President Richard Romero, had wanted to hurry the plan up to the governor so he would be forced to sign or veto it before legislators go home Thursday at noon.

If legislators pass a bill during the session, the governor has three days to act on it.

But Gov. Gary Johnson can take his time on bills passed from here on out. He gets 20 days from the last day of the session to sign or veto bills.

Aragon, the most vocal opponent of the Senate redistricting plan, said he hopes the governor will take the extra 20 days to consider the plan.

"The purpose is to point out the lack of process with this whole thing," Aragon, a South Valley Democrat, said during an interview this morning. "People were not able to participate.

"We're giving the governor 20 days to think about that. Maybe people can give him input."

Aragon gave up control of floor debate shortly after noon, allowing the Senate to get on with other business, including action on the state budget.

Sen. Leonard Tsosie, the sponsor of the redistricting plan, blasted Aragon for putting politics before the business of the Senate.

"Here we are, three hours later," said Tsosie, a Crownpoint Democrat. "If we are so worried about the peoples' business, if we are so worried about the children . . . why are we playing this game?"

The Senate passed the map for new political boundaries on Feb. 1, and the House acquiesced late Sunday evening, voting 57-8 to approve the plan.

But before the plan could go to the governor, the message reporting the House action had to be read into the Senate journal today.

Before that could happen, Aragon seized control of the floor using a procedural motion. And he relied on help from an unusual coalition of Democrats and Republicans who didn't like they way their districts were redrawn.

Sen. Allen Hurt, a Waterflow Republican, and Sen. Joe Carraro, a West Side Republican, helped Aragon with the filibuster.

Both Hurt and Carraro said they felt a majority of Democrats and Republicans crafted the new map at the 11th hour to protect their own self-interests.

Carraro also complained that the Senate should have kept its focus on the budget, not the political process of redistricting.

"Once again we're having politics kind of forced down our throats," Carraro said.

Johnson has not decided whether to sign or veto the redistricting plan once it gets to his desk.

He will probably appreciate the extra time to make his decision, said Matthew Hoyt, the governor's general counsel.

"Redistricting bills are very complex," Hoyt said. "We probably will take a good chunk of the 20 days to make a decision."

The Senate revived the redistricting map, which was drawn up by a bipartisan committee of senators last November, to avoid a court battle.

Johnson vetoed two previous plans the Senate passed during a special session in September.

Several Democrats and Republicans sued the state over the impasse. The case is currently pending in U.S. District Court.

Senators decided to try again at a compromise plan after a state judge ruled in favor of "status quo" redistricting maps for the state House of Representatives and New Mexico's three congressional districts.

The Legislature is charged with drawing new district boundaries to compensate for population shifts during the 1990s.

Albuquerque Tribune
Senators uphappy with redistricting map could seek House support
By Gilbert Gallegos
February 2, 2002

An odd coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans who felt they got shortchanged on a redistricting plan might turn to the House to help them out.

The Senate debated the plan for more than six hours Friday, and passed a bill with new political boundaries for the Senate's 42 seats.

The bill, which passed on a 29-11 vote, now heads to the House.

Traditionally, the House would acquiesce to the Senate's redistricting plan for its own districts.

But legislators said Friday that there is no guarantee that will happen with this plan. Some powerful senators, including Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, argued during debate that supporters of the new map shoved it down their throats at the last minute.

"I think maybe that it's time, maybe we ought to take our case over there (the House)," said Aragon, a South Valley Democrat. "They can see how we were treated over here."

Eleven senators - seven Democrats and four Republicans - voted against the plan.

House Speaker Ben Lujan said Democrats expect the redistricting battle will shift to the House next week. And it could be just as contentious there.

"On the normal process of redistricting, each house does their own and the other house doesn't interfere," said Lujan, a Nambe Democrat.

"But there are very much strong concerns among some of the members of the House. And once we see the redistricting of the Senate, I imagine that we'll have to take it to our caucus and have a good discussion on it, and see if we can either just pass it, or see how they want to address it."

Senate President Richard Romero, an Albuquerque Democrat, said he hopes the House defers to the Senate.

"We honored them," Romero said of two House redistricting plans passed in a special session last September. "We respected their wishes without any problems.

"Now, if they're responding to Manny (Aragon), that's a whole different story. We'll see."

The map was crafted last November by a bipartisan group of senators appointed by Romero. The plan was distributed to all senators, and the media reported generally how it shuffled districts around to account for population changes in the 2000 census.

But the actual map was never made public.

The map was introduced in the form of a bill, Senate Bill 485, on Wednesday. Aragon argued senators were kept in the dark about it being introduced this session. He also claimed the Legislature should not take up redistricting during a 30-day session unless the governor adds the issue to the agenda.

"They decided this is the plan; we're going to do it," Aragon said of Romero and other Senate leaders.

Romero said legislative staff determined the issue could be raised without a message from the governor because redistricting is a constitutional duty of the Legislature.

Sen. Leonard Tsosie, the sponsor of the latest redistricting plan, said senators had plenty of time to review the map. He said it reflects the best chance at compromise because it doesn't force any senators to run against each other.

"This plan has been called imperfect," said Tsosie, a Crownpoint Democrat. "I guarantee no redistricting plan is perfect because you can never get unanimous support for a redistricting plan."

Most Republicans agreed to take another stab at redistricting during the ongoing 30-day session after seeing how a state judge ruled in two other redistricting trials.

State District Judge Frank Allen Jr. adopted new maps for the state House and New Mexico's three congressional districts that basically keep the status quo.

The Senate plan passed on Friday is also considered status quo because it gives Democrats the edge - on paper - in keeping a majority. Democrats currently hold a 24-18 majority over Republicans. Gov. Gary Johnson has not committed to sign or veto the bill if it passes in the House.

Santa Fe New Mexican
City Council Agrees to Redraw Districts
By Tom Sharpe
January 15, 2002

The Santa Fe City Council on Monday agreed to redraw district boundaries by the end of the month in an attempt to settle a federal lawsuit that could postpone the March 5 municipal election.

A public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 22 to consider several redistricting plans.

Brian Sanderoff of Research & Polling Inc. of Albuquerque said his firm over the next week will develop maps of three to five options, so the public could review them an hour before the meeting.

The council tentatively set another meeting for Jan. 24, when the public again could make its preferences known, and the redistricting plans could be fine-tuned.

The council would meet again on Jan. 28 to vote on a specific plan.

Monday's decision followed a closed session where councilors huddled with their contract attorney to discuss a complaint brought late last year by Gloria Lopez, a Santa Fe public-schools administrator.

Nancy Long, the contract attorney, will attempt to meet with Lopez's attorneys to work out a settlement in the case.

Lopez says the growth of the city's southwest area gives District 3 more than 3,500 residents than any of the other three districts.

She maintains District 3 should be reapportioned with parts going to other districts to meet the provisions of the U.S. Constitution's one-person-one-vote rule.

U.S. District Judge Martha Vzquez has set Jan. 22 to hear Lopez's complaint.

The city had planned to do the redistricting after the March 5 election. But several councilors have said that the city might lose the lawsuit, that the election would have to be postponed and that the court could order the city to pay Lopez's lawyers as much as $4,000 per day for their work.

District 3 Councilors Frank Montao, who is running for mayor, and Miguel Chavez voted against the plan for the quick redistricting.

They said it was too short a time to come up with a plan that must last for the next 10 years.

But the other councilors in attendance supported the plan.

"We're in a pickle, and we're trying to get out of this pickle," said District 4 Councilor Matthew Ortiz.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Lawyer: Plans show signs of gerrymandering
By Susan Montoya
January 15, 2002

Three plans to redraw political boundaries for the state House of Representatives unfairly favor Democrats over Republicans, according to GOP lawyers.

Pat Rogers, an Albuquerque attorney representing Republicans, argued Monday the plans could result in the GOP remaining in the minority for the next decade. Currently, Democrats hold a 42-28 majority in the House.

Rogers questioned whether the plans - which create more Democrat-leaning districts and, in one case, pair as many as a dozen Republicans - contained evidence of political gerrymandering.

"It's evidence of the majority party expanding its party status. In political science, we would consider that a gerrymander," said Ronald Gaddie, a political-science professor who returned to the stand Monday.

Lawyers for the Democrats made the same arguments against GOP plans, saying proposed boundaries would create more Republican-leaning districts and more GOP safe seats.

A half-dozen plans have been submitted to state District Judge Frank Allen Jr., who must determine how boundaries are drawn for the state's 70 House districts.

Redistricting is before the court because the Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson failed to agree on a plan for revamping districts to adjust for population shifts during the 1990s.

On Monday, attorneys for all sides brought up competition and how the plans would affect the number of Democrat-leaning and GOP-leaning seats. Currently, 15 of the 70 House districts are considered competitive, according to a statistical index developed by an Albuquerque research-and-polling company.

Nine of the competitive districts lean to the Republicans, but Democrats are elected in seven of those districts.

Gaddie said the Jepsen plan and the Padilla plan would create the most competitive seats at 18. But he pointed out that a disparity exists between which parties would likely take those seats.

For example, the Jepsen plan - submitted by a group of Democrats - would create 10 Democrat-leaning districts and eight GOP districts. The Padilla plan - developed by Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell - would create 14 GOP-leaning districts to four Democrat-leaning districts.

Gaddie also testified that population differences among the districts can determine how many seats are won by a particular party. By overpopulating - or packing - districts, a majority party can dilute competition and win a greater number of seats, he said.

It's possible to create a map that meets the redistricting standard of one person, one vote while equally distributing population and being racially and politically fair, Gaddie said.

"It's going to require thought and care," he testified. "I don't think it would be so taxing that it couldn't be done."

Roll Call
Between the Lines
By John Mercurio
January 14, 2002

Romero In, Kelly Out. Citing disappointment with the recent court-drawn House map, former U.S. Attorney John Kelly (D) said he would not seek a rematch against Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) this year.

"It was a difficult decision, but I think in the end it's the right one," said Kelly, who took 43 percent in his 2000 challenge to the incumbent.

Wilson drew a challenger on Thursday, however, when state Senate President ProTem Richard Romero (D) joined the race. Romero made headlines last year when he parted with Democratic colleagues in the Senate by opposing a redistricting plan that would have split Albuquerque, now completely based in Wilson's district, among all three districts.

Romero, a former Albuquerque teacher, principal and administrator, now works as a retirement consultant.

Kelly said the GOP-backed map endorsed earlier this month by state District Judge Frank Allen Jr., which made only minor changes to all three House districts, did little to increase Democrats' prospects in the Albuquerque-based 1st district, which Wilson has represented since 1998.

"I'd hoped to see more of [Democratic-leaning] Valencia County brought in," he said. "In the end it was a status quo district, even a little more Republican leaning."

"Political Death Certificate." In a sign that he's unlikely to challenge Rep. George Gekas (R) in a newly configured district, Rep. Tim Holden (D) said the new House map drawn by the state's GOP-controlled Legislature could effectively end his political career.

"This may be my political death certificate," he told a local newspaper last week.

Making good on their threats to maximize GOP gains in the latest round of redistricting, Republicans in Harrisburg drew a new 17th district for Gekas and Holden that retains Harrisburg-based Dauphin and Lebanon counties, where Gekas has consistently drawn more than 70 percent of the vote.

Holden is undecided about whether he'll run. Gekas said he will definitely seek re-election.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Legislature's consultant: Judge needs to create Hispanic seats
By Barry Massey
January 10, 2002

The number of Hispanic majority House districts would increase under two redistricting proposals that passed the Legislature and under a separate plan advocated by a group of Democrats, a consultant to the Legislature testified Wednesday.

Lisa Handley of Frontier International Electoral Consulting in Washington, D.C., said a court should consider drawing district boundaries that ensure Hispanics have an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice and can counter "racially polarized" voting.

During questioning by Republican lawyers, Handley said she was not asking the court to increase the number of Hispanic majority districts. She said she was uncertain whether the law required such an increase.

Districts in southern New Mexico need a Hispanic voting-age population of 52 percent to provide that opportunity, she said. In other parts of the state, a Hispanic voting-age population of about 46 percent can provide an effective Hispanic voting opportunity.

She said Anglos in New Mexico, especially in southern New Mexico, tend to vote in a bloc against the "Hispanic-preferred" candidate. She based her conclusion on an analysis of statewide, congressional and legislative races in 1998 and 2000.

However, Handley acknowledged during questioning by a GOP lawyer that Hispanics can be elected in districts with Hispanic populations of less than 46 percent. Currently 10 Hispanics were elected in House districts with less than a majority Hispanic population, said Mark Braden, a GOP lawyer from Washington, D.C.

Handley's analysis also has been criticized by a state senator who is a demographer.

Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, testified earlier in the trial that Handley had wrongly identified a number of candidates as Hispanics or failed to determine their ethnicity.

Adair said last week his studies of voting in New Mexico indicated that political-party affiliation - not ethnicity - was a determining factor in voting. Hispanics, he said, tend to vote for Democrats, and Anglos more often favor Republican candidates.

He said many out-of-state consultants wrongly assume New Mexico has racial divisions in voting similar to those historically found in southern states.

Handley's testimony came in support of the second redistricting plan passed by the Legislature last year and vetoed by Republican Gov. Gary Johnson. She testified during the sixth day of a trial before District Judge Frank Allen Jr., who will determine how boundaries are drawn for the 70 House districts.

A half-dozen statewide redistricting maps have been submitted to the judge to consider. Three of them were suggested by groups of Republicans. Hispanic activists, the Democratic-controlled Legislature and a group of Democrats recommended the other proposals.

Redistricting is before the court because the Legislature and governor failed to agree on a plan for revamping districts to adjust for population shifts during the 1990s.

Currently, there are 22 districts in which Hispanics account for a majority of the voting-age population. However, there are 31 Hispanic members of the House.

Handley said the two plans passed by the Legislature would have created 23 Hispanic-majority districts, and there would be 24 under a proposal advocated by a group of Democrats in the trial.

She suggested that GOP redistricting plans could be challenged in court for potentially violating the Voting Rights Act by diluting voting strength of Hispanics. Three proposals recommended by separate groups of Republicans would create from 20 to 22 districts with adult Hispanic majority districts.

Republicans contend the court does not have to intentionally create Hispanic majority seats to comply with federal law. Lawyers for Democrats and Hispanic activists disagree.

During the trial, GOP lawyers and witnesses have pointed to what they describe as the success of Hispanics in elections because of the state's Hispanic heritage. Currently, for instance, Hispanics hold seats in the Legislature greater than their proportion of the state's population.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Redistricting Plan Pairs House Seats
By Barry Massey
January 9, 2002

The top House Democratic leaders would be paired with other Democratic incumbents in new districts proposed by Republicans for redrawing the boundaries of House seats.

The plan developed by Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, would revamp boundaries of the 70 House districts to match 12 Democrats and six Republicans against other incumbents.

The plan pairs more incumbents in new districts than any of the other redistricting maps Democrats or other Republicans have recommended to a state district court judge, Charles Daniels, an Albuquerque lawyer for a group of Democrats, said Tuesday.

Adair's plan would match House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Namb, and Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-San Juan Pueblo, in a new district in Northern New Mexico. House Majority Leader Danice Picraux would be paired in the same Albuquerque district with Democratic Rep. Gail Beam.

Adair said his proposal was developed mainly to increase the number of majority Indian districts and to try to equalize district populations as closely as possible. Targeting or protecting incumbents was not a goal, Adair said.

However, Daniels questioned Adair about "coincidental pairings" of Republicans who broke party ranks and voted for a Democratic redistricting plan during a special session last year.

Rep. Sandra Townsend, R-Aztec, would be paired with Rep. Thomas Taylor, R-Farmington, and Rep. Ron Godbey would be matched with Rep. Joe Thompson in an Albuquerque-area district.

Townsend and Godbey supported the second House redistricting bill passed by the Democratic-led Legislature and vetoed by Republican Gov. Gary Johnson.

Godbey, Thompson and a third GOP incumbent would be matched in the same district under a redistricting proposal by a group of Democrats.

Adair's proposal would create five Democrat-to-Democrat pairings; two GOP-to-GOP matches; and two Democrat-to-Republican incumbent pairings.

The testimony about Adair's redistricting plan came Tuesday in a trial before state District Judge Frank Allen Jr., who will decide how to redraw boundaries of New Mexico's House districts.

A half dozen statewide redistricting proposals have been submitted to Allen. Redistricting will be determined by the court because the Legislature and governor failed to agree on a plan for altering boundaries to adjust for population changes during the past decade.

Also Tuesday, officials of the Jicarilla Apache Nation said they wanted the tribe moved into a majority Indian district.

"Historically we have had many problems in getting a lot of the things my people need and the native people could benefit from," Jicarilla President Claudia Vigil-Muiz testified. "The state hasn't been very responsive in meeting our needs."

Currently, the tribe in north-central New Mexico is in House District 3, which includes part of the community of Aztec in San Juan County. Indians account for 15 percent of the voting-age population of the district.

The Jicarilla Apaches want to be incorporated into House District 65, which currently includes many pueblos in Sandoval County.

The district currently is represented by Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo.

Vigil-Muiz said Madalena had helped the Jicarillas in the past with legislative requests even though he's not their representative.

Carson Vicenti, a member of the Jicarilla legislative council, said the tribe's proposal was made a part of the second House redistricting bill passed by the Legislature and vetoed by Johnson.

Vicenti said the Jicarilla proposal meshed with recommendations by the Navajo Nation for drawing boundaries of districts in northwestern New Mexico. The Navajo proposal would create six districts in which Indians account for at least 60 percent of the voting-age population.

Vicenti said the Jicarilla Nation likely would support other redistricting plans, including those advocated by Republicans, if they were adjusted to include the recommendations of the tribe.

Albuquerque Tribune
Neither party gains much from judicial restraint
By Hal Rhodes
January 9, 2002

Democrats are glum, but Republicans can barely hide their delight with state District Judge Frank Allen's decision last week altering the existing boundaries of New Mexico's three congressional districts only to the extent of bringing them into conformance with the 2000 census.

It's a wondrously ironical turn of events.

The GOP moved heaven and earth to get the redistricting mess out of the state judiciary and into federal court, where they thought a Republican dominated three judge panel would advance their partisan interests.

Democrats were equally anxious to keep the matter in state court on the assumption that the preponderance of Democratic judges in New Mexico's judicial system might give them an advantage.

Turned out, both sides were wrong. Under Allen's ruling, the GOP's most vulnerable incumbent, Heather Wilson of District 1, is in a stronger position today than at any time since 1997 when she first narrowly won her seat in Congress.

So now, as he presides over a second trial that will culminate in a redistricted state House of Representatives, it seems clear that Judge Allen is disinclined to rock the boat in performing the unwanted reapportionment responsibilities that have fallen to him.

And "unwanted" is the word. Early in the congressional remapping trial, Allen looked at Roswell Republican state Sen. Rod Adair, who was testifying on behalf of a redistricting scheme favored by his party, and said: "I'm damn mad about sitting up here and trying to do somebody else's job."

"I'm wondering," the judge mused, "why the Legislature just fooled around and didn't do anything." Worse, he snapped, "Did the governor do anything?"

It was a perfectly legitimate question, albeit rhetorical.

Yet, despite his frustration at having "to do somebody else's job," Judge Allen appears to have opted for a carefully considered philosophy of judicial restraint in fulfilling his redistricting duties.

Or such is the inference one can draw from the judge's rejection of a proposal advanced by Democrats that would have put parts of Albuquerque in each of the state's three U.S. House districts, thereby creating what's been called a "Hispanic majority district."

Wrote Allen in his decision: "This court is and should be reluctant to make radical or partisan changes unless the law requires these changes to be made."

Creation of a "majority Hispanic district," he noted, entails "serious political considerations which should be made by our Legislature and governor working within the political process."

Judicial restraint, the judge seemed to be saying, inclines him to make only those changes required by the law and population shifts revealed in the 2000 census.

It is an admirable doctrine. And if it accompanies him into his state House redistricting decision-making, it could be of concern to Republicans whose reapportionment proposals for that body would divest the Democrats of the control they currently enjoy.

It's a big "if" here, of course. Anticipating judicial decisions is a risky undertaking.

Still, Judge Allen proved himself to be remarkably evenhanded in reapportioning New Mexico's U.S. House seats, and it's difficult to see how he could be any less restrained in approaching the task of redistricting seats in the state House.

Wherein lurks another potential irony. For, if Judge Allen's apparent penchant for "status quo" redistricting arrangements extends to his decisions in reapportioning New Mexico's lower House, state Democrats and Republicans could end up getting out of the court little more than they would have gotten out of the Legislature and governor had both sides simply been willing to compromise.

Albuquerque Tribune
Navajo Nation Speaker Airs Tribes Redistricting Wishes
By Richard Benke
January 7, 2002

Navajos are participating in the political process in growing numbers, and they want a redistricting plan for the New Mexico House of Representatives to reflect that, the speaker of the Navajo Nation Council said today.

The tribe will accept its proposed legislative redistricting map being included in other redistricting proposals as long as those plans were compatible with the federal Voting Rights Act, said Edward T. Begay, who has been on the council for 30 years and has been speaker for the last three.

Begay testified at the start of the second week of a trial to determine new districts for the state House as required after each census. The issue ended up before state District Judge Frank Allen Jr. after Republican Gov. Gary Johnson and the Democrat-majority Legislature could not agree on a plan.

Pat Rogers, attorney for a group that intervened in the case, asked Begay whether the Navajo Nation would accept any other plans being proposed "if we could take your plan and fit it (in)."

"As long as they're compatible overall and also with the Voting Rights Act," Begay said.

The Navajos, he said, are proposing six Navajo-majority legislative districts in northwestern New Mexico. He said the proposal was offered to the 2001 Legislature.

"To my understanding, they graciously reviewed that, put it aside and drew up their own," Begay said.

After the Legislature acted, the Navajo Nation "made another revision so it would be compatible with the statewide proposal being formulated," he said.

The tribe has since made a second revision, which is now before the court, Begay said. At Allen's request, Begay stepped to the bench and showed the judge the tribe's original plan.

Begay said the approval of six Navajo-majority districts would help the tribe gain funding for capital projects and schools.

"Not only that, but they (Navajos) are starting to express their rights to be part of the process," he said.

He said he hoped that would lead to more Navajos seeking elective office, including "congressional, one of these days."

Begay argued in favor of considering Gallup as part of a "community of interest" that includes the Navajo Nation. On any given weekend, he said, about 300,000 people go in and out of Gallup, about 90 percent of them American Indians.

"That's a trade center. They bill it that way," he said.

Begay said that in any case, Navajos will participate in the political process in growing numbers.

The Navajo tribe has an overall population of 260,000, including many who live off the reservation, said Begay, a former tribal vice chairman.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Redistricting Battle May Prove Pricey
By Associated Press
January 7, 2002

The legal battle over redrawing the state's congressional and legislative boundaries could cost taxpayers a bundle.

Fees for about two dozen attorneys involved in the case in state district court in Albuquerque easily could top $1 million.

Redistricting landed in the courtroom of Judge Frank Allen Jr. after the Democratic-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson failed to agree on a plan for drawing the districts to adjust for population changes over the past decade.

The state already paid more than $1.5 million for redistricting even before the case went to court. That money includes $691,000 to pay for a 17-day special legislative session in September; $533,305 for a consultant, Research and Polling Inc. of Albuquerque, to help legislators; and $321,549 for legal consultants the Legislature hired for work through November.

Hourly fees for attorneys working on redistricting range from $120 per hour to $500 per hour.

State Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl said the GOP plans to hold fund raisers to pay the fees for Johnson's attorney, James Browning, and other lawyers representing Republicans.

Dendahl estimated the party would have to raise about $500,000.

Matthew Hoyt, Johnson's general counsel, said Browning "is not being paid through the governor's office or through (the state) Risk Management (Division)."

"There's no public money involved," Hoyt said.

But taxpayers will pay the bill for lawyers representing Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley in the redistricting trial. Mark Jarmie and Jason Bowles, who are paid $125 an hour, have a contract with the state General Services Department's Risk Management Division.

Under a federal law that allows parties who win voter-rights lawsuits to be awarded legal fees and expenses, several lawyers plan to apply to the court to have the state pay their fees. That could cost New Mexico taxpayers up to $500,000 just for the congressional trial, former U.S. Attorney John Kelly said.

"My expectation is the state of New Mexico will pay very substantial legal fees," said Kelly, who stopped by several times to watch the congressional trial. "The lawyers will submit a bill based on their usual hourly rate."

Joseph Goldberg, who represents a group of Democrats and who successfully challenged New Mexico's redistricting after the 1980 census, said he expects to get paid under the Civil Rights Attorneys Fees Award Act, which is the way he got paid the previous time.

Albuquerque lawyer Luis Stelzner, Roswell lawyer Richard Olson and others in their firms were hired by the Legislative Council Service, a publicly funded agency of the Legislature, to serve as legal consultants on redistricting, starting in November 2000.

In the trial, Stelzner and Olson represent defendants House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, and Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque.

Stelzner's firm has billed the state for about $234,748 for work through November. Olson's firm billed for about $86,800 for work through October.

Neither firm has submitted bills yet for work on the trials, which began Dec. 10.

The redistricting trial to determine House districts was expected to continue today.

Santa Fe New Mexican
Thirteen Republicans Paired In Plan Advocated by Democrats
By Barry Massey
January 3, 2002

Nearly half of the 28 Republicans in the state House of Representatives would be paired against incumbents under district boundary changes advocated by a group of Democrats.

The plan was the focus of the first day of testimony in state district court in a trial that will decide how the boundaries are redrawn for New Mexico's 70 House seats. The new boundaries will be used starting in this year's elections.

Redistricting ended up before District Judge Frank Allen Jr. because the Democratic-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson failed to agree on a plan for changing district boundaries to adjust for population changes during the past decade.

James Williams, a demographer and professor of sociology at New Mexico State University, said politics and party affiliation were not factors in how he developed the redistricting plan for the group of Democrats.

The main goals, he said, were to draw districts with substantially equal populations and to improve on the concentration of Indians in several districts in northwestern New Mexico.

Lawyers for Republicans said 13 GOP House members would be forced to run for re-election against other incumbents under the plan.

The large number of incumbent pairings is mainly caused by efforts to equalize district populations, Williams said Thursday.

One lawyer for Republicans questioned Williams about whether the plan was politically aggressive in trying to pair nearly half of the Republican House members.

``I don't think it's necessarily aggressive. I certainly didn't set out to do that,'' Williams said.

Don Bruckner, an Albuquerque lawyer for a group of Republicans, said the plan advocated by Democrats would ``create a 'high water mark' in partisan gerrymandering, not only for New Mexico but also for the nation.''

``Such an act of raw partisan retribution simply cannot be justified in a court adopted redistricting plan,'' Bruckner said in written arguments submitted to the judge.

Districts would be merged to place 11 incumbent GOP members into five districts - automatically unseating six incumbent Republicans. Three Albuquerque-area GOP incumbents would be combined in one of those proposed new districts.

Two Republicans would be paired against Democratic incumbents in Democratic- leaning districts.

The plan would pair two Democratic House members in a newly configured district in northwestern New Mexico.

Participants in the lawsuit have submitted a half dozen proposed maps to the court to consider in determining how to revamp House districts. The judge could adopt one of the plans or develop a new map.

The governor is urging the judge to appoint a demographic expert as a ``special master'' to prepare a plan based on directives given by the court.

Johnson's lawyers say the proposals submitted so far are unacceptable and fail to comply with all of the legal requirements for redistricting.

On Wednesday, Allen issued his ruling on congressional redistricting. He adopted a plan suggested by Republicans that made the fewest changes in current boundaries.

Williams said he was instructed to base his redistricting proposal on one of the plans passed by the Legislature and vetoed by the governor. That way, he said, the plan had a ``public policy basis'' because it reflected some of the debate and discussion that took place when the Legislature considered redistricting.

Johnson vetoed two House redistricting plans that were approved by lawmakers mainly along party lines. Republicans had complained that the proposals would have reduced their numbers in the House by pairing GOP incumbents.

Ideally, House districts would have equal populations of 25,986 based on the 2000 census to comply with the legal requirement of ``one-person, one vote.''

One question in the redistricting trial is how much difference in district populations is acceptable.

When the Legislature met in its special session, lawmakers were advised that courts generally have approved plans in which the maximum deviation is no more than 10 percent - plus or minus five percent from the so-called ideal population. Lawyers for the governor contend that the court must comply with a tighter standard for population deviations.

Another important legal issue in redistricting is how changes in district boundaries affect racial and ethnic minorities, such as Indians and Hispanics. The federal Voting Rights Act prohibits diluting the voting strength of minorities. Courts have determined that the law mandates the creation of ``majority minority'' districts in some instances to ensure that racial bloc voting doesn't prevent minorities from having the opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.

Currently, 31 Hispanics and three Indians are members of the House.

Hispanics hold about 44 percent of the seats in the House, which is slightly greater than their proportion in the state's population. Indians hold about half as many House seats as their share of the state's population, however.

Williams said the plan by Democrats would provide six districts in which Indians account for a majority of the population - one more than current districts.

Albuquerque Tribune
Democrats tentative on districts challenge
By Gilbert Gallegos
January 3, 2002

Democrats said they are disappointed with a judge's decision not to create a new congressional district with Hispanics in the majority.

But House Speaker Ben Lujan, a central figure in the redistricting case, said he is not sure he will ask attorneys representing the Legislature to appeal the case.

"I really haven't talked with any of our legal team," said Lujan, a Nambe Democrat. "I guess that's something that may be discussed.

"But I don't know that we, ourselves, or any of our legal team, will challenge the judge's decision."

State District Judge Frank Allen Jr. adopted new boundaries Wednesday for New Mexico's three congressional boundaries.

Allen basically stuck with a plan, proposed by attorneys representing Republicans, that keeps the current districts largely intact. The new plan shifts a handful of precincts in Bernalillo, Cibola and McKinley counties to account for population changes during the past decade.

Joseph Goldberg, an attorney representing Democrats in the redistricting lawsuit, said he would decide in a few days whether to appeal Allen's decision.

"I want to read it over carefully and consult with my colleagues," Goldberg said.

It was not immediately clear whether any other parties to the redistricting lawsuit would appeal Allen's decision.

Attorneys representing Hispanic voters, Navajo Nation voters and the residents of the Jicarilla Apache Nation - all parties to the lawsuit - have not yet indicated whether they would appeal.

Attorneys representing Republicans favored the plan adopted by Allen because it gives Republicans a good shot at keeping what they already have, which is two of the three seats.

Only one district is currently held by a Democrat. The 3rd Congressional District is represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Udall of Santa Fe.

Pat Rogers, an attorney for Republicans, said he is satisfied with the new boundaries because they are based on "reason and law."

Washington Post
New Mexico Plan Rejected
By Juliet Eilperin
January 3, 2002

It was Democrats who suffered a setback in New Mexico, when a judge rejected a redistricting proposal yesterday that would have created a Hispanic-majority congressional district for New Mexico, instead approving a plan that makes only slight changes.

Democrats had hoped a dramatic realignment and a Hispanic-majority district would give them a better shot at a second House seat. Republicans now hold two of the state's three seats.

Democrats had argued that the state's large number of Hispanics -- 42 percent of the state's population -- should be given a greater voice in Congress. However, state District Judge Frank Allen Jr., a Democrat, said he found "no persuasive evidence" the federal Voting Rights Act required a Hispanic majority district, the Associated Press reported.

"This court is and should be reluctant to make radical or partisan changes, unless the law requires these changes to be made," he wrote.

New Mexico's redistricting ended up in court because the Democratic-controlled state legislature and Republican Gov. Gary E. Johnson were unable to reach an agreement during a special session in September. Several groups sued, asking the court to intervene.

Unlike many other states, New Mexico did not lose or gain any seats in Congress, but a new map was needed to reflect population shifts within the state.

The head of the state's Democratic party expressed disappointment yesterday in Allen's decision. "We thought it was the right thing to do for New Mexico to create such a district," said David Gomez, the interim state party chairman. But, he added, "We'll take what we've got, run with it and win."

Santa Fe New Mexican
Congressional Map Barely Changes
By Barry Massey
January 3, 2002

A judge rejected a redistricting proposal Wednesday that would have created a New Mexico congressional district with a Hispanic majority; he instead approved a plan that makes only slight changes.

The ruling by District Judge Frank Allen Jr. was a setback for Democrats, who hoped redistricting would give them a better chance at winning a second seat in the U.S. House. Republicans now hold two of the state's three seats.

"We're disappointed," said Frank Sanchez of Roswell, a longtime community activist who was part of a lawsuit asking the courts to intervene in redistricting. "However, we still feel we have a strong voting-rights case."

Sanchez successfully challenged the state over redistricting two decades ago. Last month, he testified at a trial in Albuquerque in favor of a 2nd District with a Hispanic majority. He said a decision will be made in a day or two on whether to appeal.

Democrats argued that New Mexico - with a Hispanic population of 42 percent - was due for a majority-Hispanic district. They said Hispanics, with their common language, culture and history, are a community that should be taken into account.

Allen, a Democrat, said he found "no persuasive evidence" that the federal Voting Rights Act required a district with a Hispanic majority.

"This court is and should be reluctant to make radical or partisan changes, unless the law requires these changes to be made," he wrote.

State Sen. Ben Altamirano, D-Silver City, said the ruling was a setback to giving Hispanics a bigger voice in politics.

"I ran for Congress at one time, and had I had a more representative district, I may have had a better chance for winning," the longtime legislator said.

Republicans had objected to the plan passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature because it would have put parts of the Albuquerque area - now in the 1st District represented by Republican Heather Wilson - into all three congressional districts.

Matthew Hoyt, a lawyer for Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, believed the plan Allen adopted "made the most sense for the state of New Mexico."

"It does a good job of maintaining political competition," Hoyt said.

New Mexico's redistricting, required every 10 years by law, ended up in court because the Legislature and Johnson were unable to reach an agreement during a special session in September.

Allen adopted a "least change" plan promoted by a group of Republicans. The judge wrote that it shifts "the minimum population necessary to bring New Mexico into compliance with the one-person, one-vote requirement set by the United States Supreme Court."

Overall, the plan moves 22,966 people, or 1.2 percent of the state's population, into new districts.

"The 'least change' plan does dilute minority votes," Sanchez said. "It does not give Hispanics and other minorities the chance to elect candidates of their choice in Congress as well as other districts."

The new map is almost identical to the old congressional districts, except it moves the Zuni and Ramah Navajo reservations from District 3 to District 2 and moves three precincts in Bernalillo County to the 1st District from the 3rd District.

Under Allen's map, the percentage of voting-age Hispanics in the new districts remains virtually the same.

In the Albuquerque-area 1st District, Hispanics account for 38.8 percent, compared with 39 percent in the old district. They account for 42.54 percent compared with 43.13 percent in the 2nd District and 34.61 percent compared with 34.05 percent in the 3rd District.

Don Bruckner, a lawyer for the Republicans whose plan Allen adopted, said it would preserve one district in Northern New Mexico that is strongly Democratic and two swing districts, currently held by Republicans, that could tilt in favor of Republican or Democratic candidates.

Rep. Joe Skeen, a Republican, represents New Mexico's 2nd District. Tom Udall, a Democrat, represents the state's 3rd District.

Allen wrote that because of the disagreement between Johnson and the Legislature, "it is appropriate for this court to look to the last, clear expression of state policy on this issue enunciated in 1991 with the enactment of the current districts."

David Gomez, interim chairman of the state Democratic Party, expressed disappointment in Allen's decision, saying "we wanted to better serve Hispanics and other minority groups through the creation of a majority-minority congressional district."

State Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl called Allen's decision good news. "It's going to help the candidates to breathe more easily," he said.

He said there's still plenty of competition between the parties in the 1st and 2nd Districts.

Allen reached his decision just before beginning a trial on redistricting the 70 districts in the state House. The first day focused on a proposed map of boundary changes advocated by a group of Democrats. The plan would pair 13 of the 28 Republicans in the House with either GOP or Democratic incumbents.

Pat Rogers, a lawyer for some Republicans, called one proposed district a "triple play" because it would join three GOP incumbents in one Albuquerque-area district.

Lawyers for the governor are urging the judge to appoint an expert in redistricting as a special master to help draw a new House map. Johnson's lawyers contend that the half-dozen proposals submitted to the judge by participants in the lawsuit are unacceptable and fail to comply with legal requirements for redistricting.

Albuquerque Tribune
Redistricting Decision Expected From Judge
By Gilbert Gallegos
January 2, 2002

Today's expected court decision on new congressional boundaries could determine whether U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson keeps her base in Albuquerque or is forced to shift her attention to voters on the state's east side.

Wilson and a handful of others who are lining up to run for New Mexico's three congressional seats this year have a lot riding on the decision to be made by state District Judge Frank Allen Jr.

"A lot of people are holding their breath," said Pat Rogers, an attorney representing Republicans in the redistricting trial that ended just before the holidays.

Allen is in charge of deciding which new boundaries should be adopted to account for population changes during the past decade.

The job of redrawing political lines landed in Allen's courtroom after the Democrat-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson failed to agree on any single plan.

Allen could have chosen one of six plans presented to him by Democrats, Republicans and representatives of minority voters during last month's trial. He also had the option of drawing his own map in order to settle the issue.

The plan the Legislature passed, which Johnson vetoed during a special session in September, would have radically changed the boundaries.

That plan, backed by most Democrats, would have divided Albuquerque so portions of the city would be in each of the three congressional districts. The idea was to create a district, stretching from Albuquerque to Las Cruces, with a majority of Hispanics.

The plan would also combine much of Albuquerque's Northeast Heights with counties in eastern New Mexico.

Judge Allen was considering various versions of that plan, which would give Democrats the edge in two of the three districts. Democrats now hold just one of New Mexico's seats in Congress - the 3rd District represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Udall of Santa Fe.

Republicans favored plans that kept the 1st Congressional District, now represented by Wilson, based in Albuquerque. They argued in court against the idea of splitting the state's largest city.

The 1st District is considered a swing district, although Republicans have held the seat since it was created.

The judge had to consider several legal factors, such as making sure minorities don't see their vote diluted because of boundaries.

As soon as Allen announces his decision, he will immediately shift his attention from federal to state boundaries: the 72 seats in the state House of Representatives.

The trial to decide legislative districts was scheduled to start today.

A separate trial dealing with state Senate seats has not yet been scheduled.

Rogers said the odds are good that someone will appeal whatever decision Allen makes.

But, Rogers said, it is impossible to know the basis of any appeal, who might appeal and where it is appealed until Allen makes his decision.

"These cases are often appealed," Rogers said. "And it gets exceptionally complicated immediately."

Since there are so many parties with a stake in the lawsuit, any one of them could appeal, Rogers said.

And even though the case is in state District Court, a three-judge federal panel is waiting in the wings in the event the case is not settled in time for this year's elections.

Albuquerque Journal
Judge Turns Down Majority Hispanic District In Redistricting Case
By Barry Massey
January 2, 2002

New Mexico's congressional districts will change only slightly under a redistricting plan ordered Wednesday by a state judge, who turned down a Democrat-backed proposal for a majority Hispanic district.

The ruling by District Judge Frank Allen Jr. was a setback for Democrats, who hoped redistricting would give them a better chance at winning a second seat in the U.S. House. Republicans now hold two of the state's three seats.

Democrats argued that New Mexico with a 42 percent Hispanic population was due for a majority-Hispanic district. They said Hispanics, with their common language, culture and history, are a community that should be taken into account.

Allen, a Democrat, said he found "no persuasive evidence" the federal Voting Rights Act required a Hispanic majority district.

"This court is and should be reluctant to make radical or partisan changes, unless the law requires these changes to be made," he wrote.

Frank Sanchez of Roswell, a longtime community activist and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday. Sanchez, who successfully challenged the state over redistricting two decades ago, testified in favor of a majority Hispanic 2nd District during the trial on redistricting plans last month.

Sen. Ben Altamirano, D-Silver City, said the ruling was a setback for giving Hispanics a bigger voice in politics.

"I ran for Congress at one time, and had I had a more representative district, I may have had a better chance for winning," the longtime legislator said.

He said he would support appealing Wednesday's ruling "for more minority representation if it can be done."

Allen adopted a "least change" redistricting plan promoted by a group of Republicans. The judge wrote that it shifts "the minimum population necessary to bring New Mexico into compliance with the one-person, one-vote requirement set by the United States Supreme Court."

Overall, the plan moves 22,966 people, or 1.2 percent of the state's population, into new districts.

The new map is almost identical to the old congressional districts, except it moves the Zuni and Ramah Navajo reservations from District 3 to District 2 and moves three precincts in Bernalillo County to the 1st District from the 3rd District.

Allen reached his decision just before beginning a trial on redistricting the 70 districts in the state House.

Under Allen's map, the percentage of voting-age Hispanics in the new districts remains virtually the same as in the old ones.

In the Albuquerque-area 1st District, Hispanics account for 38.8 percent, compared to 39 percent in the old district. They account for 42.54 percent compared to 43.13 percent in the 2nd District and 34.61 percent compared to 34.05 percent in the 3rd District.

Joseph Goldberg, an attorney for a group of Democrats, said no decision had been made whether to appeal. Any appeal would likely go to the state Court of Appeals and then to the state Supreme Court.

"We regret that Judge Allen didn't see his way for a plan that would allow for a Hispanic majority district," Goldberg said.

Republicans had objected to the plan passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature because it would have put parts of the Albuquerque area now in the 1st District into all three congressional districts.

Don Bruckner, a lawyer for the Republicans whose plan Allen adopted, said it would preserve one district in northern New Mexico that is strongly Democratic and two swing districts, currently held by Republicans, that could tilt in favor of Republican or Democratic candidates.

"The court decided to leave it the way it is, which we felt was appropriate," he said.

New districts are drawn every 10 years after Census figures are released. New maps for congressional districts and the state House are vital because those offices are up for election this year. State senators don't run until 2004, and no Senate redistricting trial has been scheduled.

Redistricting ended up in court because the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson were unable to reach agreement during a special session in September.

Allen wrote that because of the disagreement, "it is appropriate for this court to look to the last, clear expression of state policy on this issue enunciated in 1991 with the enactment of the current districts."

Matthew Hoyt, a lawyer for the governor, said Johnson believed the plan Allen adopted "made the most sense for the state of New Mexico."

"It does a good job of maintaining political competition," Hoyt said.

David Gomez, interim state party chairman, expressed disappointment in Allen's decision.

"We're disappointed because we wanted to better serve Hispanics and other minority groups through the creation of a majority-minority congressional district," Gomez said, speaking through party spokesman Brendan O'Reilly. "We thought it was the right thing to do for New Mexico to create such a district. Of course the Republicans thought differently."

But, he added, "We'll take what we've got, run with it and win."

State Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl called Allen's decision good news.

"It's going to help the candidates to breathe more easily to know there's a decision reached," Dendahl said.

He said there's still plenty of competition between the parties in the 1st and 2nd Districts, and that Republicans running in those districts will have their work cut out.

"At least the deck isn't stacked totally against them," Dendahl said.

Jerry McKinney, spokesman for Rep. Joe Skeen, the Republican who represents the 2nd District, said: "We've always believed that the least change' (plan) would be the best way to go. It keeps the district close to what the most people are used to."

McKinney said Skeen, who is serving his 11th term, has not decided whether to run for re-election and likely would wait until the redistricting issue made its way through the court system before deciding whether to run again.

Amarillo Globe-News
Aide: Johnson didn't back remap plan
By Associated Press
December 20, 2001

Gov. Gary Johnson offered to discuss redistricting options with lawmakers but refrained from advocating any one plan because he would have to sign off on it, his chief of staff testified Wednesday.

Johnson did express concern, however, about plans that would divide up Albuquerque, David McCumber said before the governor's lawyers rested their case Wednesday morning.

And he said the governor never got any congressional plan until after the Legislature had adjourned its special session. In his veto message, which became a point of contention again Wednesday, Johnson listed the divided city, divided high-tech interests, and divisions of ranching and farming among others as reasons.

"It was a contentious process, and for that reason we chose not to participate," McCumber said, adding that the governor also was concerned because he would be called upon to give final approval or veto the plan.

He said the Legislature did not have to adjourn immediately after sending up the congressional redistricting plan.

The drafting of the veto message was handled by staff members, McCumber said, and the governor did not see it until there was a draft. Once it was drafted, he said, "my recollection is he did not make any substantial changes in the veto message."

He said that while the governor stayed above the contentious debate over redistricting during the special session, he had participated with Republicans who wanted GOP-friendly aspects included in any remapping.

"This is a very political process. The governor worked very closely with the Republican leadership. ... He is a Republican governor and is going to look to the Republican Party and Republican leadership for input," McCumber testified.

The Democratic plan he vetoed had three districts basically meeting at or near the heart of Albuquerque - and drawing the state into three fan-blade-shaped pieces with two or more districts including a piece of the state's largest city.

At 448,000, Albuquerque represents one-fourth of the state's 1.8 million population, growing to one-third if outlying suburban areas are included.

 



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