Narrow house

ABQ has a key role in the push to control NM House

Homes around the Bandelier Drive and Napolist NW area are in House District 68, one of the most contested races in the state. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — The partisan fight for control of the State House is expected to spill over into the Paradise Hills and Ventana Ranch neighborhoods in northwest Albuquerque.

According to a newly redrawn map of the house, the suburban and family zone is home to the most tightly divided legislative district in the Nov. 8 ballot, according to an analysis of voting trends over the past 10 years by Research & Polling Inc., the the state redistricting contractor.

Albuquerque is, in fact, poised to play a crucial role in whether Democrats retain their substantial advantage in the 70-member House.

Five of the seven most competitive legislative races in New Mexico this year are rooted in the state’s largest city, where Democrats are defending seats spanning parts of the West Side, Northeast Heights and Foothills.

And the other two most tightly divided districts are nearby: a Republican seat that spans parts of Rio Rancho, Corrales and Albuquerque, and another GOP seat in Belen.

House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, says Republicans are well positioned to flip some seats in the Albuquerque area and make gains in southern and southwestern New Mexico .

Albuquerque is, of course, essential to a majority of either party. In addition to an open seat covering Paradise Hills on the West Side, Republicans are considering a handful of seats in the Northeast Heights and Four Hills area that were held by Republicans until the 2018 Democratic wave – at halfway through President Donald Trump’s term. .

“There were a lot of people, I think, who were very disturbed by President Trump’s policies, the tweets and that sort of thing, but what they missed was the standard of living that they had enjoyed,” Townsend said.

Now, with Democrats in control of the White House and the Roundhouse, he said, New Mexicans are reeling from high inflation and the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate.

“People are hurting,” Townsend said, and they’re ready for a change.

Democrats, in turn, have their own reasons for optimism. They already have a dominant majority in the House – 45 to 24, plus a conservative-leaning independent who is not running for election.

And they say they have made good use of their advantage, increasing spending on education and other priorities, repealing an anti-abortion law and passing tax cuts for working families.

“We kept the promises we made,” said House Majority Leader Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque.

The party has made so much progress in Albuquerque since 2018 that it’s hard to see Democrats growing their numbers there. Only one Republican, Bill Rehm, remains in Albuquerque’s House delegation, and his seat in Northeast Heights leans heavily Republican.

But Martínez said he sees pickup opportunities in districts that touch Rio Rancho, Socorro and Silver City.

“We are very confident that we will be able to compete in seats where we haven’t been able to in the past,” he said.

Legislative landscape

The composition of the House has changed considerably over the past eight years.

Republicans claimed a 37-33 lead in the 2014 election, then Democrats clawed back a narrow majority two years later.

But Democrats have widened their majority to 45 or 46 seats since the blue wave of 2018.

This year’s races, however, will be held in newly redrawn districts based on 2020 census data.

Overall, Democrats have a clear advantage in 34 seats, with another 11 seats leaning toward Democrats, according to voting trends over the past 10 years, analyzed by Research & Polling Inc. and shared with lawmakers .

The analysis looked at how Democratic and Republican candidates performed in competitive statewide races from 2012 to 2020. The numbers aren’t necessarily a prediction of how districts might fare in the future. .

Winning each of the Democratic-leaning seats would give Democrats a large majority consistent with the past four years.

But the margin is quite narrow in some races. Seven of the 70 districts are within about 2 percentage points. At least two others are within 3 points.

The redrawn constituencies also make it more likely that each party will flip at least a few seats, even if they end up offsetting each other and leaving the composition pretty much intact.

Republicans, of course, are eager to make gains.

“I think we have a very, very good chance of making meaningful changes to the makeup of the House of Representatives,” Townsend said.

Two Albuquerque Democrats — Marian Matthews and Pamelya Herndon — are in Northeast Heights-based districts that leaned slightly toward Republicans in the 10-year vote analysis.

A third Albuquerque Democrat, Meredith Dixon, whose district covers the Four Hills neighborhood and part of the Sandia foothills, is in a slightly Democratic-leaning district.

Two open seats on the West Side could also be competitive. Both have been held by Democrats, but neither has an incumbent, either because the district was moved from elsewhere in the city, the incumbent is stepping down, or both.

That gives Albuquerque five House seats — all now held by Democrats — where the 10-year voting trends are within 2 percentage points of each other.

Only two other seats are as narrowly divided: a district of Rio Rancho, Corrales and Albuquerque represented by Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert and an open seat that includes Belen, where Republican Kelly Fajardo is not seeking reelection.

ABQ key

However, it turns out that Albuquerque is set to play a vital role in the composition of the House.

Martínez, whose own district covers downtown Albuquerque and part of the North Valley, said Democrats have a strong record to build on. They have worked to expand access to health care and services amid the pandemic, he said, and have taken significant steps to improve public safety, including additional funding to recruit and retain staff. officers.

Democrats also passed legislation repealing New Mexico’s criminal abortion law, he said, all the more critical now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ended the constitutional right to abortion. abortion and gave states the power to decide the issue.

“New Mexico will be a leader and a beacon of hope for people across the country,” Martínez said.

But Townsend, the Republican leader, said his excitement was growing day by day as he watched the reception of Republican candidates “running up and down the Rio Grande corridor.”

Families, he said, are feeling the impact of high gas prices and inflation, violent crime that is garnering national attention, and dismal academic performance in public schools.

“People are ready for a change,” Townsend said. “I hear that all the time.”

West Side Battlefield

No district has been more tightly divided in the past 10 years than part of the northern West Side in Albuquerque, according to data from Research & Polling.

Democrats had a 0.2 percentage point advantage over Republicans in precincts that make up District 68, now held by Democrat Karen Bash, who is not seeking reelection. Republican Monica Youngblood had the seat before Bash.

It’s an area that includes the northern end of the Petroglyph National Monument, Paradise Hills and Ventana Ranch subdivisions, and striking views of volcanoes and the Sandia Mountains.

Democrat Charlotte Little and Republican Robert Moss are vying for the seat, each of them having launched a door-to-door campaign.

It is one of the city’s fastest growing neighborhoods over the past 20 years, making improving infrastructure a key issue in the neighborhood, alongside more universal concerns, such as the crime and education.

Moss, a lawyer and businessman with interests in health care and real estate, said he enjoys running in a competitive district where candidates encounter a range of political views.

He describes himself as a centrist who targets moderates from both parties.

“I think everyone’s voice in our community needs to be heard,” Moss, 35, said.

Little, who is 61 and deputy director of Naeva, a nonprofit group that advocates for Native American voters, said she received a warm welcome at the door regardless of the person’s political affiliation.

Voters in the district, she said, care about many of the same things — health care, education, crime.

“For everything we hear around us,” Little said, “the issues at the gate are very similar. They are not that far apart. »