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Letting good gerrymandering go to waste

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Commentary:

Democrats in the state Legislature went to a lot of trouble to gerrymander the Second Congressional District, and now their colleagues in Washington, D.C. are squandering it.

After rejecting all of the proposed maps of an independent redistricting commission, Democrats passed a map offered by Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces that breaks up the Republican stronghold in Southeast New Mexico that had always dominated past elections in the Second Congressional District. Republicans have won all but two elections since the state expanded to three districts in 1983.

The area known as Little Texas (Alamogordo, Roswell, Carlsbad, Hobbs, Clovis and the surrounding communities) is responsible for seven of the 15 Republican members of the state Senate and 10 of the 24 GOP House members. It was also responsible for keeping Steve Pearce in Congress from 2003 to 2019, with the exception of one term when he voluntarily gave up the seat.

The new map breaks Little Texas into three parts, with the Third District now stretching all the way from the Four Corners area to Hobbs, a distance of more than 550 miles.

Gerrymandering can be tricky business, as there are only so many votes to go around. The goal is to shift enough votes to tip the scales in CD2 without losing CD3 in the process. To make it work, local Democrats will need some help from their national partners. And they aren’t getting it.

Two years ago, money poured into the district, as anybody with a TV or mailbox knows. The contest between first-term incumbent Democrat Xochitl Torres Small and Republican challenger Yvette Herrell was the most expensive in the nation, with a combined $37.3 million in campaign spending; $24.3 million coming from outside groups.

After Herrell’s win, Democrats in D.C. moved on. We’re apparently no longer on Emily’s list. This year, Democratic candidate Gabe Vasquez is behind on fundraising, running against the Republican incumbent, 

The Democratic National Committee doesn’t have funding to help new, young candidates like Vasquez, but does have money to bolster the most dangerous, radical Republican candidates running in primary elections. 

Democrats have spent some $44 million this primary season to benefit Republican candidates in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Maryland, according to reporting from the group Open Source. They are attempting to eliminate moderate Republican candidates in the primary on the theory that the extremists will be easier to beat in the general election.

Among those they have helped are Doug Mastriano, who chartered a bus to transfer protesters to the capitol on Jan. 6, and Darren Bailey, a state senator in Illinois who has sponsored legislation to separate the rural part of the state from Chicago. 

Former Las Cruces resident Chris Mathys, who lost in Republican primary races to Ben Hall for the Public Regulation Commission in 2018 and to Yvette Herrell for Congress in 2020, has moved back to California and was also a recipient of the Democrats’ largesse. 

Mathys ran against David Valadao, one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Donald Trump after Jan. 6. Democrats spent $110,000 on ads trying to punish Valadao for his courage. So much for country over party. Mathys lost anyway. 

There’s going to be a lot of hyperbolic talk from the left between now and November claiming that Republican candidates are an existential threat to democracy. Don’t believe it. If Democrats really thought that, they would be doing everything they could to defeat those candidates at every step along the way, not support them.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com