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SANTA FE — So the cost of redistricting the U.S. House, state legislature and the state Public Regulation Commission this year was over $8 million. Some of us had predicted $10 million so we got off easy considering what a litigious, polarized, uncooperative, out-to-get-each-other society we have these days.
The call has gone out for an independent redistricting commission appointed by the public. Forgeddaboutit. That would take politicians of good will. It ain’t gonna happen.
Yes, some states have independent redistricting commissions. Those are states with initiative and referendum provisions written into their constitutions.
The story is that Congress wouldn’t allow initiative or referendum in New Mexico’s constitution because it didn’t want laws “made in the street.” They trusted only the governor and Legislature. Too bad they can’t see how that’s been working out.
Congress did trust Arizonians to make laws in the street. But they trusted Arizonians. They were whiter, more southern, less Catholic and spoke mainly English. So Arizonians passed an independent redistricting commission back in their good government days a decade or so ago.
Two commissioners were chosen. They chose a third. And they drew all the redistricting maps. Gov. Jan Brewer didn’t like them so she fired the chairwoman of the commission, whom she had no power to appoint or remove. The resulting court suits, confirming the governor’s lack of power, cost millions.
Interestingly, the Republican contention in Arizona was that the districts were too competitive. The Republican argument in New Mexico was that the districts weren’t competitive enough. It just depends on whether you are in the majority.
FBI Special Agent Ken Rommel died on July 28. He led a storied life. In World War II, he was part of the Army’s 503rd Parachute Infantry, which made the famed jump on Corregidor leading the recapture of the island off the Bataan Peninsula.
In the late 1970s, when mysterious cattle mutilations were being reported throughout Northern New Mexico, U.S. Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt asked for an investigation into what was going on.
Rommel, then retired, was hired by the district attorney’s office to head the investigation. Rommel’s report was decisive and controversial. The mutilations were all naturally caused.
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez is traveling again. Soon after he and Gov. Susana Martinez were elected, the governor sent Sanchez on a tour of the state to identify small business complaints about the state. Many thought at the time that Martinez was largely trying to keep Sanchez out of her hair while she set up her government.
That suspicion became greater when Sanchez announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Gov. Martinez quickly appeared at a Heather Wilson Senate fundraiser the following day and announced that she was stripping Sanchez of any duties not prescribed by the state constitution.
Since the only duty she had assigned him was the statewide tour and that had been completed, Sanchez didn’t have much to do other than sit at home and wait for a call to fill in during one of her El Paso trips.
But now Sanchez is planning a statewide tour on his own. Rumors are his political ambitions are not over. Diane Denish did the same as lieutenant governor. Maybe Sanchez’s trip will turn out better.
Speaking of those who never give up, former state Sen. Joe Carraro is running for his old seat again. This time, he will be an independent. The seat currently is held by Republican John Ryan.
Democrats likely would prefer the colorful Carraro to staunch conservative Ryan, whose wife Veronica Gonzales is cabinet secretary of Cultural Affairs.
Maybe some Democrats might help Carraro.
But independents have great trouble raising money.
And Ryan can get everything he needs from Susana PAC and the governor’s other political funds. It would be fun seeing Carraro perform on the floor of the state Senate again.
But it just isn’t going to happen.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.