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New lines, new ratings in New Mexico

Democrats go for sweep, putting their own members more at risk

New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country, Gonzales writes.
New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country, Gonzales writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — While Republicans get to draw new congressional lines in some of the biggest states, including Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, Democrats are trying to chip away at that edge in smaller states where they’re the cartographers. 

New Mexico is one of just seven states where Democrats are in control of the redistricting process. But in their effort to gain another seat and sweep the state’s congressional delegation, Democrats may have endangered their own incumbents. 

[More House race ratings | Initial Senate race ratings]

Republicans need a net gain of just five seats nationwide to recapture the House majority, and the GOP benefits from the national political environment and President Joe Biden’s slumping job approval ratings. So Democrats need to squeeze out any seats, wherever they can. 

1st District (Melanie Stansbury, D)

In the 2000s, Republicans called on Heather A. Wilson, cycle after cycle, to lock down the competitive 1st District. But over the last decade, the Albuquerque-based seat has shifted Democratic, becoming a steppingstone for current Sen. Martin Heinrich, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

This redistricting cycle, Democrats chose to take Democratic voters in western Bernalillo County and place them in the 2nd District in order to make that seat more competitive. That makes life more difficult for 1st District Democratic incumbent Melanie Stansbury, who will run for reelection in a seat Joe Biden would have carried by 14 points instead of her current seat that he won by 23 points. That’s still probably out of reach for Republicans, even in a GOP wave, but the congresswoman can’t take her race for granted. Initial rating: Solid Democratic

2nd District (Yvette Herrell, R)

There’s no time to rest for Yvette Herrell. In 2018, the Republican fell just short (51 percent to 49 percent) in an open-seat race against Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. Two years later, she avenged her loss with a landslide 7-point win over Torres Small. And now Democrats have targeted her for defeat. Last cycle, Herrell had the benefit of President Donald Trump carrying the 2nd District by 12 points at the top of the ballot. In 2022, she will be running for reelection in a seat Biden would have carried by 6 points, making her one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in the country. 

Even after giving up a large chunk of rural territory to the 1st and 3rd districts, the 2nd still covers much of southern New Mexico. And all is not automatically lost for Herrell, considering a handful of Republicans won districts Biden carried by more than 6 points in 2020, as pointed out by Jacob Rubashkin of Inside Elections. This year should be a better national environment for the GOP. Initial rating: Toss-up. 

3rd District (Teresa Leger Fernandez, D)

Northern New Mexico’s 3rd District has quite a Democratic legacy of its own, with previous representatives including former Gov./former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson, former Sen. Tom Udall and current Sen. Ben Ray Luján. The district absorbed some Republican territory from the 2nd District to make Herrell more vulnerable, and the largest segment of the population is now non-Hispanic white, when it used to be Hispanic. With those changes, Biden would have won the redrawn 3rd District by 10 points, compared with his 17-point victory under the old lines. 

Incumbent Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez was reportedly shocked by the redistricting outcome, and the first-term Democrat is now on the edge of the House battlefield and in danger if a GOP wave crests high enough. Initial rating: Likely Democratic.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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