Reapportionment key for LA

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The Los Alamos Monitor story on the future of House District 43 was a great story and it showed the Los Alamos community was alert and concerned about the redistricting of our House seat.
The presentations were right on with  the strongest being the economic impact of Los Alamos on northern New Mexico. U.S. Senators Clinton Anderson and Pete Domenici knew this well and they were always able to provide support for a strong laboratory as the engine of healthy job and local spending on local economies. The New Mexico House and Senate representatives for Los Alamos took care to work with the state on the important issues of maintaining support for the lab and as an offshoot the workforce.
The financial health of northern New Mexico can be used to leverage  the reapportionment process. However, all of this is about the big picture.
 On the inside there is yet the nitty gritty of the reapportionment process that is unseen by the general public. It comes down to the individual concerns of each of the 70 House members and the 42 Senators. For the individual legislator it is all about “me”, that is, “Can I get reelected in the new district? Who are my potential opponents in the new district? How hard will it be to campaign in the district? How much will it cost to campaign in the new area?” In many districts there is a distinct political party advantage such that the only race that makes a difference is the one in the primary.
Many of these districts are held by longtime incumbents so there is no primary or general election contest. Dislodging them in a redistricting process is never in the cards. The Democrat Party has held a lock on the majority in the Roundhouse for over 50 years.
The importance of holding Los Alamos intact in a new legislative district was shown in my first term in the House. John Rogers held the Senate seat in the era when each county had a single senator just  before the Supreme Court ruled that all state legislatures must represent people not political jurisdictions. The Supreme Court decision took effect in our first session and in the next legislative session we were in new districts
We had to fight several battles for the county. A neighboring county tried to cut out a piece of Los Alamos to add one more seat to their contingent. The economic argument won the day when the business community was apprised of an adverse impact on their business if the proposed redistricting act took place. The House seat was held intact and the senate seat encompassed all of Los Alamos plus a small portion of another county. With two solid seats we had to successfully fight several battles, one of which was to keep the legislature from taking credit for the school’s Federal funding. John Rogers was on the Senate Finance Committee and he was able to amend the school finance bill to mitigate the effect on Los Alamos schools and ensure that the school system was not hurt. Now there is no one in the senate to duplicate John’s feat. Having three senators is like having none at all and that makes the House seat all that more important.
Given that Los Alamos has no voice in the Senate, if the House seat does not remain with a whole county, intact in a new seat it will behoove the county and schools to file a Federal lawsuit  on the basis of a community of common interest that should not be solid in an effort to protect our interests. Partitioning of the county into parts of other county’s legislative districts will almost completely mute the voice of our citizens to our detriment.
The Senate situation begs a solution and it could be met by combining this county with another area that has its own common interest that is  coherent and of an approximate same size. They do ot need to be politically the same but each big enough to have strong recognition on their own. .
Governor Martinez has declared that she would like to see districts where the political candidates are truly competitive and where the outcome of an election depends upon the competitiveness of the candidate and not just political party affiliation. That would break the mold and usher in a new era of government. That is unlikely.

Vernon N. Kerr
Former State Representative District 43

Los Alamos