Republicans still win House redistricting battle

By │ 3/01/12, 6:43 am │ Analysis
The Roundhouse in Santa FeThe Roundhouse in Santa Fe (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

While the new map isn’t as GOP leaning as the map Judge James Hall initially approved, it’s much better for Republicans than the plan the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved.

The best anecdotal evidence of which political party benefits most from the House redistricting map finalized Wednesday is Republican Rep. Conrad James’ decision to defend a contested House seat rather than run for an open Senate seat and Democratic Rep. Bill O’Neill’s decision to do the opposite.

Though there’s no certainty it will happen, the new map gives Republicans a fighting chance of taking control of the House sometime in the next decade. Faced with that possibility, James is staying to fight it out rather than becoming the likely anointed candidate for a relatively safe Republican Senate seat.


O’Neill, on the other hand, decided to risk a tough Senate primary rather than a tough House general election. Either way he would face the possibility of losing, but in the Senate he’s much more likely to be serving with a Democratic majority if he wins.

Here are some numbers to illustrate the point:

  • At the end of the last decade, the makeup of the House included 32 districts out of 70 with a political performance measure of 50 percent or more Republican. Some 36 districts had a GOP performance measure of 48 percent or better.
  • The new map still has 32 districts with a GOP performance measure of 50 percent or better, but 37 districts with a GOP performance measure of 48 percent or better.
  • More telling is an analysis of districts former President George W. Bush won during his 2004 re-election campaign. The previous map had 36 districts won by Bush; the new map has 39.

You can view the new map here and read about it being finalized here.

While the new map isn’t as GOP leaning as the map Judge James Hall initially approved – which is one reason Democrats chose not to appeal this final map – it’s much better for Republicans than the plan the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved.

The Legislature’s map had 30 districts with a GOP performance measure of 50 percent or better and 33 with a GOP performance measure of 48 percent or better. Some 36 districts in the map the Legislature approved were won by Bush in 2004.

Analysis is all over the place

What’s interesting is that analysis of the map was all over the place leading up to the decision by both sides to accept it. A reporter for several New Mexico newspapers quoted Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, as saying Hall “did a really good job” and produced a “very fair” plan.

In that same article, Minority Leader Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, complained that the map “is negative for us” and “doesn’t maintain our presence in the House.”

On the other hand, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s office praised the map in a statement to Capitol Report New Mexico, saying it “equalizes population and gives the voters on Albuquerque’s west side and Rio Rancho the representation they deserve.”

And House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambe, complained that Hall made “very miniscule changes” from his earlier map Democrats appealed and the Supreme Court directed Hall to redraw.

The reality

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who loses the Eldorado subdivision from his district in the new map, pointed to reality on Twitter.

“It’s the governor’s map with a few tweaks,” he tweeted.

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