Saturday, July 26, 2003
State May Follow Texas' Lead in Redistricting
By Loie Fecteau Journal Politics Writer
SANTA FE Democratic legislative leaders might reopen congressional redistricting in New Mexico to benefit Democrats if Texas persists in redrawing its political boundaries to help Republicans.
"We very well could come in and look at those congressional seats again," said House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe. "We are entitled to do that."
Lujan noted in an interview this week that Colorado lawmakers recently redrew that state's court-drawn congressional boundaries to aid Republicans and that Texas is trying to do the same.
A state district judge decided New Mexico's congressional boundaries, using the 2000 Census, after the Democratic-controlled Legislature and former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, failed to agree on a new political map.
Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, contends legislators would be within their rights to redo congressional redistricting since it was decided by a judge and not by lawmakers and the governor. Romero unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., in New Mexico's Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District in 2002.
"Richard Romero would like to reopen redistricting to give him a better chance of challenging Heather," said House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque. "We would fight that tooth and nail."
Hobbs noted that New Mexico's overall redistricting battle, which included a special session in September 2001 and two court trials, cost New Mexico taxpayers more than $4 million.
Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson has said he is reluctant to put redistricting on the agenda of a special session he plans to call in October on state tax policy. Richardson said he might change his mind, depending on what other states do.
"The main focus of the session is going to be tax reform, but that doesn't preclude redistricting," said Dave Contarino, Richardson's chief of staff. "It's not off the table and certainly what Texas is doing really concerns the governor."
Meanwhile, members of the Democratic state central committee cast a voice vote a week ago against a resolution offered by Rep. Edward Sandoval, D-Albuquerque, to support redoing congressional redistricting in New Mexico if Texas does.
Several Democrats who live in New Mexico's southern 2nd Congressional District, represented by Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., spoke against reopening redistricting at the meeting in Albuquerque.
"If we're doing it for the benefit of just one congressional district, that one congressional district ought to work harder to defeat Heather Wilson," said Michael Flynn of Las Cruces.
Sandoval was undeterred by the vote against his resolution on reopening redistricting. "We can still go there," he said later.
updated at 4:10 p.m.No word if they are staying in the Governor's mansion in Santa Fe.
AUSTIN Eleven of 12 Senate Democrats boycotted the chamber Monday in a protest over a second special session on congressional redistricting and headed to Albuquerque, N.M., in a move reminiscent of a walkout by House Democrats over the issue in May.