Monday, December 13, 2021

Redistricting Aftermath; Stansbury Safe In ABQ; Dems Still Sorting Out Southern Impact; Northern Rep. Leger Fernandez Reportedly "Shocked" By Outcome; The News And Expert Analysis Is Up Next 

New Mexico's once-a-decade-congressional redistricting is a done deal with new maps from the Legislature on the Guv's desk awaiting her signature. Now what?

Will the southern congressional district (CD#2) now be an easy take for the Democrats with the new district encompassing a large portion of ABQ's Westside, South Valley and Barelas neighborhood?

The district will indeed be a much easier race for the Dems--it now has a 6 percent Dem lean--but already some are expressing concern about the candidacy of former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez, a progressive Dem who has the blessing of Sen. Martin Heinrich but who, according to the skeptics, may be too liberal for even the new Dem friendly district held by first term Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell

There is a hunt on for a more moderate Dem who they believe could make the transition easier for the district's electorate but the hunt is thwarted by a lack of obvious top level talent. 

One name touted is longtime ABQ City Councilor Klarissa Pena. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that the moderate ABQ Valley Councilor will have to weigh. That opportunity may also lure others into the race for the 2022 southern CD nomination.

As for Vasquez, his campaign slogan is "Son of Southern NM." He might want to modify that now that the big city is plugged into the district.

Heinrich pushed state Senator Siah Correa Hemphill out of the race but now that the new map is a reality can the ambitions of others be quelled? That's doubtful, especially now that Vasquez may be seen as more shaky in an upcoming Republican leaning year. 


Rep. Leger Fernandez
In the northern District (CD3) it's been Silent Night publicly from freshman Rep. Dem Teresa Leger Fernandez (TLF) but close observers say she is not pleased with the shape of her new district which now extends south into Little Texas territory, including half of the Anglo dominated city of Hobbs. A Senior Alligator deeply tapped into El Norte's La Politica tells me:

Joe, Teresa was shocked by the outcome. She is telling supporters that 80 percent of the oil and gas industry in the SE is now in her district. She does not take money from them and is at odds with them on climate change. She believes the district is now competitive for the R's and is furiously fund-raising. I wonder if the national Dems even consulted her?

The new district does not appear to be as competitive as TLF may think. It gives the Dems a big 12 point edge over the R's--47--30--but it's the only map of the three districts where R's see hope as explained by Sen. Cliff Pirtle:

It’s a risk that is being taken,” in that Democrats may think they can make inroads in the traditionally Republican part of the state, he said. Despite the Democratic advantage, “with the right candidate who really speaks to the independents and people frustrated with the Democratic Party, we could pull off a win even in the next election.” 

TLF is hearing opposition to the new map for the sprawling district from Hispanic forces, including the NM Acequia Association. Being paired with the cowboys and oil boys does not settle well in the history rich north that is heavy on Hispanic and Native American voters. But it will take a court ruling now to undo the districts. The pros say that is not likely.


TLF has already been listed as a target of the national R's for '22. She has to scurry to douse the growing flames. 

A poll conducted in August by a DC group (using landlines and cellphones) that crossed our blogging desk and that delved into CD 3 Democratic views gave the first termer a favorable rating of 55 percent, but a full 35 percent of the over 500 Dem voters surveyed did not know who she was. That alone is enough for R's to salivate.

That poll raises the specter of not only Republican wolves baying at her door but could invite a Dem primary challenge from a less progressive Dem. Perhaps someone like former state Rep. Joseph Sanchez who came in third in a seven way Dem primary in 2020 and lost to TLF. He could also be invigorated by the new map that could be more friendly to his political persuasion than TLF's.

Leger Fernandez has to show some financial muscle to scare off the pack. She reports only $226,00 in cash on hand at September's end. 

Another possible reason for her slow start: Since its inception in '82 the district has been spoiled by big names representing them, including Big Bill Richardson, Tom Udall and Ben Ray Luján.

Also TLF assumed the office with no elective experience and the learning curve has been lengthy. 

As for the R's, if Pirtle's hope for '22 is to come true they need a strong name. One floating in the early going is Claire Chase, she of the gazillionaire Chase oil family of Artesia who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP congressional nomination in 2020 against Herrell and who lives in Roswell.

That '20 race did not hurt Chase who has been on the Pence side of the GOP fence, not the Trumpers. That complicates a primary but not the general election. She can be expected to take a look.


Rep. Stansbury 
In the ABQ area freshman Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury gets most of Rio Rancho in her new district and drops a good chunk of the ABQ Westside, South Valley and the Barelas area. The Dem lean for the new boundaries is 7 percent. 

Stansbury appears solid. She won her special election in a 60 percent plus landslide in June and has taken easily to her new job. She already had experience as a congressional aide and is a natural policy nerd. 

The new district, however, could soften her progressive politics. She takes in more conservative rural counties such as DeBaca and Lincoln. The saving grace for her is that those are very low population areas. Still, Rio Rancho, (the state's third largest city) has plenty of R's and with the conservative dragon breathing fire headed into '22 we may see a slightly more accommodating Stansbury when it comes to views that don't align with the progressive universe. 

Final note: The new congressional maps appear to present opportunity for less progressive Dems. It's not coincidental the father of the maps is moderate Dem state Sen Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces. 

And there you have it, Gators. Welcome to the next ten years. 

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