Lawmakers pulled the plug Sunday on what promised to be a vigorous floor debate on a new redistricting map for the New Mexico Senate following stiff opposition from Native American leaders who said it undermined their wishes.

The decision to delay action on a substitute of Senate Bill 2 is aimed at allowing time to continue discussions with tribal officials; hours earlier, tribal leaders and others had walked out of a committee room in silent protest when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the new map.

“The committee’s vote unfortunately reflects a flagrant disrespect to the process [lawmakers] created and the [tribal] consensus plan that resulted from that process,” Regis Pecos, a former governor of Cochiti Pueblo and co-founder of the Leadership Institute at Santa Fe Indian School, said after the committee’s 7-2 vote.

“It perpetuates the paternalism that fundamentally we are trying to dismantle,” he added.

The initial proposal by Sens. Linda Lopez and Daniel Ivey-Soto, both Albuquerque Democrats, incorporated a plan put forward by the state’s tribes.

“Over the past eight months, we worked with all of the tribes in our state to get agreement on one plan,” Keegan King of Acoma Pueblo, co-chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors’ Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This consensus map takes the best thinking of all of our tribal nations and puts it into one unified plan.”

Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the substitute proposal. She said the new Senate map was developed in collaboration with Republicans.

“In the Senate, we try very hard to be collaborative and work with an entire body, not just one party, and so I was approached by the minority party with ideas,” she said. “In addition, we continue to want to not have pairings [of incumbents] in these maps.”

Under Stewart’s proposal, two Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen and Sen. Joshua Sanchez of Bosque, would no longer be in the same district.

Word of the new map started to spread late Saturday.

An email among advocates for a fair redistricting process labeled the move a “blatant incumbency protection across party lines.”

In addition to unpairing two Republican incumbents, the new map would change the boundaries of districts 3 and 4, which are currently represented by Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, and Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, respectively.

Pinto, who is Native American, would represent 60 percent of Gallup while Muñoz, who is Hispanic, would be represent the remaining 40 percent under Stewart’s proposal.

Stewart told the Senate Judiciary Committee her proposal still incorporated much of the tribal consensus map. The biggest deviation was in Pinto’s district, which kept 79.5 percent of the tribal consensus map intact.

“We’ve tried very hard to maintain the majority of the [tribal] consensus map but deal with issues of pairing and deal with issues of drastic changes to a few of our seats,” Stewart told the committee. “This represents different groups trying to come together to maintain our good, solid Native American districts but not pair incumbents.”

Zia Pueblo Gov. Jerome Lucero told the committee Lopez’s proposal had the blessing of tribal communities because it represented months of deliberations that resulted in consensus among the state’s sovereign nations.

“For many redistricting cycles throughout history, our voice [was] often ignored from this important democratic process,” he said. “As a result, our people have suffered.”

Isaac Dakota Casados, chairman of the Native American Democratic Caucus, decried the substitute map.

“The eleventh-hour pass that we see today without consultation of our Native American tribes is not only a travesty, but it’s also a direct violation of much of the work that has been done not for just for today and the last couple of months but for decades,” he said.

He added, “This is a struggle that has been ongoing for over 70 years, and when we negate our Native American voices in our communities and those of our elected tribal leaders, we do disservice to those communities.”

At the committee hearing, Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, said redistricting is a difficult process and lawmakers are doing their best to redraw the state’s political boundaries.

“I’m having a hard time with this because if I support this bill, I’m suddenly not respecting the Herculean effort that the Native American community did in this state for eight months,” he said. “I mean, I get that, but at the same time, as a legislator who’s redistricting, we have the obligation to discuss and amend.”

Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, said it was important to “honor and respect the incredible work” of the state’s Native American communities.

“Respect doesn’t mean there will not be discussion, and respect doesn’t mean that things are untouchable,” she said.

O’Neill and Duhigg both voted in support of Stewart’s proposal. They were joined by the three Republicans on the committee, as well as Stewart and Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces.

Only the sponsors of the original proposal, Lopez and Ivey-Soto, voted in opposition.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has decided that it is more important to protect incumbents than it is to honor the expressed wishes of the Tribes, Nations and Pueblos,” the Indigenous advocacy organization New Mexico Native Vote tweeted after the vote. “The [committee] voted against tribal sovereignty and self-determination today. Remember that.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(7) comments

Jim Montevallo

Who would expect anything less than the most crass politics and hamhanded disrespect from New Mexico's democracts?

Seriously lacking amateurs and obviously phony in their stated aims.

Jim Klukkert

jim montevallo- 3 out of 26 Senate Democrats joined 3 Republicans in this committee vote. That is less than 12% of Senate Democrats.

You obviously paint with too broad a brush, Mr. montevallo.

Will you, Mr. jim montevallo, join me, Native Americans and the majority of New Mexicans in supporting the initial proposal by Sens. Linda Lopez and Daniel Ivey-Soto? To be clear, that is the proposal supported by Native American leadership.

Mike Johnson

Wow! Now that is raw political power on display.

Jim Klukkert

I would have thought, Mike Johnson, that you would be aware that in committee, that when 3 out of 26 Senate Democrats join 3 Republicans together, that is something less than "raw political power."

That is less than 12% of Senate Democrats, voting in a committee.

The fat person is yet to sing on this one, though you and other partisan political types will try to score points with every minor machination.

Emily Hartigan

Hope the fat person has been listening.

Helping colleagues, even across the aisle, rather than honoring the NDN process, is junk.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Ignoring the most vulnerable to advance the most elite.......

Emily Hartigan

Seriously disappointing that the process of the tribes and pueblos is not being honored.

Respecting a consensus reached after months of work in crucial traditional communities is more important than taking care of your buddies.

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