Slow populations growth may reduce political clout in rural N.M.

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By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — Rural New Mexico risks losing clout in the Legislature in the coming decade because of the politics of population.

The 2010 Census will be used to redraw boundaries of New Mexico’s legislative and congressional seats. However, the government’s most recent population estimates don’t look good for eastern New Mexico and other rural areas because slow-growing regions could end up losing seats in the Legislature.

“Rural areas of New Mexico have not kept pace with the cities in the last decade ... and so there is always that possibility, if not probability, of a shifting of some seats,” said Brian Sanderoff, who has worked in the past as a consultant to the Legislature on redistricting.

Counties in eastern and southeastern New Mexico grew 1.1 percent from 2000 to 2008. That’s the slowest of any region in the state, according to Sanderoff, who runs an Albuquerque-based research and polling company that analyzed census figures for the Legislature to use in redistricting after the 2000 Census.

The Albuquerque metropolitan area — including the cities of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho - grew the fastest in 2000-2008: 16.4 percent. Southwestern New Mexico increased 9.6 percent but that was fueled mainly by population gains in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County.

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