Four candidates consider redistricting

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By Harold Morgan

Normal people do not run for high political offices such as governor, senator and member of congress.

Think of it. These candidates are expected to know everything. An ability to interact with others is essential. Candidacy is more than a full time job. A day off? Get real. New Mexico’s size brings yet another challenge — Alamogordo one day, Roy the next.

A candidate is a product. A candidate also is stuck with being a person. Some candidates can’t function in both worlds.

Message is an essential element. Message refers to that set of statements, typically as general as possible, outlining the candidate’s ideas about the issues. Message becomes a set of what are called “talking points.” Going off-message is a sure way for the candidate to earn a reprimand from campaign staff.

Then along come people like me asking specific questions about obscure issues. This column’s topic, redistricting, is important, however obscure.

As with the previous two columns, candidates were asked to respond in no more than 75 words. I do not edit the response. Nor do I comment about the response itself. I have reserved the right to comment about relevance and, as it turns out, whether a candidate responds at all.

Candidates were allowed six days to answer. I provided an additional four-day cushion. The Domenici campaign cited logistics in not answering. Silence came from the Weh campaign.

The question: Will you introduce legislation in the 2011 regular session of the Legislature creating an independent commission to handle redistricting of congressional, legislative and other districts? Why or why not?

(More information about the use of independent commissions for redistricting is available in the January issue of Capitol Report New Mexico. The article is on page 11. See www.capitolreportnewmexico.com.Look under the Articles/Issues tab.) Evaluation of the answers (or non-answers) is for you.

Janice Arnold-Jones: Yes. An independent redistricting commission would develop the plan in consultation with the Legislative Council Service that must be approved by the Legislature, ideally without amendment, and signed by the governor.  The details of appointments and process are essential, as is open access and transparency. The goal of redistricting is to provide proportional representation of all citizens without regard for those individuals currently elected. Districts should be as proportional as practical, compact and contiguous among other criteria. 

Diane Denish: Redistricting is the legal responsibility of the governor and Legislature. That said, I would be open to an independent redistricting committee that would serve in an advisory capacity. Redistricting is an opportunity to ensure fair representation for all New Mexicans. More important than raw partisanship, that means having a redistricting plan that makes sense geographically and ensures that diverse, economically disadvantaged and rural communities have fair representation.

Susana Martinez: I support legislation sponsored by Keith Gardner, which amends the New Mexico Constitution and establishes a bipartisan redistricting commission that draws lines for Congressional and state legislative districts consistent with federal and statutory requirements and based on the most recent federal, decennial Census. I support this legislation because too often politics drives this process and detracts from critical discussions like reducing our state’s historic budget deficit and turning our economy around while rooting out corruption.

Doug Turner: Independent commissions charged with redistricting have succeeded in some states and failed in others. The risk with all politically appointed commissions is that they become politicized and fail to achieve what they are set up to do. That said, I would seriously consider the establishment of such a commission and firmly believe we can find a way to keep politics out of this process.”

Pete Domenici Jr.: Unable to provide a response. Logistical reasons were cited by the campaign.

Allen Weh: No response.

© 2010 New Mexico News Services