Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is waiting to take action on a contentious Senate redistricting bill down to the wire.

Whether the governor will sign or veto Senate Bill 2 before Thursday’s deadline remains to be seen, but what is clear is the delay is keeping lawmakers and political observers in suspense.

Nora Meyers Sackett, Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, did not respond when asked what action the governor planned to take.

“The governor will act on the bill tomorrow, within the special session’s signing period, and we’ll let you know as soon as that has happened,” she wrote.

The anticipation over the fate of the bill comes amid the threat of litigation, which is also on hold.

The Republican Party of New Mexico has said it is considering a lawsuit to stop what it called “Democrats’ illegal and manipulative redistricting map,” and that a “robust legal review” is in the works.

“The party is talking to state and national legal experts who were looking into the maps, and we are looking into a possible lawsuit,” Mike Curtis, a spokesman for the GOP, said Wednesday.

“At this point, no decision has been made,” he added. “The specialists are reviewing information and something could be coming very soon.”

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, I-Albuquerque, who said during the special legislative session he and others were considering a legal challenge, said he is now focused on a redistricting effort for the Bernalillo County Commission.

“Though I still have the same concerns about the partisan buddymandering that went into the Senate map, I at least won’t be representing folks in a legal challenge on them,” he wrote in a text message, adding his constituents are more upset “about being denied a westside [Bernalillo County] commission district.”

During a Wednesday night Zoom meeting about redistricting, Dick Mason, a project director with Fair Districts for New Mexico, which represents 40 entities supporting open redistricting efforts in the state, said he had not heard of any potential legal challenges to the bills passed by the Legislature.

The Senate redistricting map has been shrouded with uncertainty since it was approved by the Legislature following days of closed-door negotiations.

“I don’t know when or if she will sign the Senate map, but action is not imminent,” Tripp Stelnicki, the governor’s former communications director, said in late December after Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill creating new election district boundaries for seats in the state House of Representatives.

“Final decision TBD, still under discussion. She has until noon on Jan. 6 to act on that one,” Stelnicki added.

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said it struck him as odd the governor has yet to take action on the Senate redistricting bill.

“I have no idea what her problem is, but it’ll be interesting to see if she doesn’t sign it. What do we do then?” he said.

Ortiz y Pino noted the governor already has signed the three other redistricting bills, including the new congressional and state House maps.

“My assumption is she’ll sign it, that she’s torturing us for suing her,” Ortiz y Pino said, referring to a lawsuit filed by senators over which branch of government had the authority to appropriate federal coronavirus relief funds, a case in which the New Mexico Supreme Court sided with lawmakers.

“That’s my personal angle, and I don’t know if that’s the case or not at all,” Ortiz y Pino added. “She may have some valid problems with it.”

Ortiz y Pino said he hopes the Senate redistricting map doesn’t end up in court, which he said could happen if she vetoes the legislation. He said it would be “just dreadful” if the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, were unable to reach an agreement on the map.

“The House map just flew through, and she signed it right away,” he said. “Even the congressional map, which I would’ve thought would’ve been the most controversial, she signed right away. We’re the tail of the class. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Staff writer Robert Nott contributed to this report.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(7) comments

John Cook

Here's a surprise: The Governor signed the Senate redistricting bill. Maybe tomorrow's story will have a threat by Aubrey Dunn's son to file a lawsuit? Not a chance.

John Cook

It seems this story would be better in tomorrow's paper. After the Governor has acted, one way or another. Although, it is always entertaining to read what Senator Otiz y Pino has to say. He is clearly right. The Governor is waiting out of a fit of personal pique. Not the best look for a serious politician. But, of course, it is all meaningless as soon as she signs the bill. Which I guarantee will be by noon today.

Mike Johnson

Forever the drama queen, milking every opportunity for press coverage and attention.

John Cook

You are looking at the wrong party for this 'drama' Dr. Johnson. Note the reporter on this story. Clearly, the Rs believe any story on redistricting helps them or this reporter wouldn't have written it. The Governor should have signed it much earlier but Senator Ortiz y Pino has it right on her delay.

Mike Johnson

I do like y Pino'a read, but why would she think she is punishing the insurrectionists who defied and questioned her dictatorial powers by doing this? Sounds like middle school......

Michael Kiley

I urge the Governor to sign the state Senate map bill, and not to let the hypothetical perfect be the enemy of the actual good. We should all have a nickel for each time we read someone says they are going to sue.

John Cook

[thumbup] To having a nickel for threats of lawsuits! Although, the most notable thing is the dead silence of anyone seriously threatening litigation on any of these maps. If you can't even get Aubrey Dunn's kid to threaten a lawsuit then you got nothin'.

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