New Mexico 1st District
New Mexico’s past and future come together in its single metropolis, Albuquerque. The city’s Spanish and Indian past is memorialized in its name (for a 17th-century Spanish nobleman) and in its age (founded in 1706) and in its quaint Old Town. But Albuquerque’s future is decidedly high-tech. For decades, the Sandia National Laboratories, Kirtland Air Force Base and the University of New Mexico have attracted scientists and engineers to Albuquerque and promoted private-sector technology growth. When rocket scientist Robert Goddard moved here in 1930 and nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer reconnoitered the site in 1940, Albuquerque was still a town of 35,000 at the junction of the Rio Grande River and old U.S. 66, which paralleled the Santa Fe Railroad. “A dirty, red sod-hut tortilla desert highway city,” novelist Tom Wolfe wrote. Now, metro Albuquerque, spreading out from Bernalillo County into Sandoval and Valencia counties, has more people (846,000 in 2008) than all of New Mexico did when the scientists first arrived. Bill Gates founded a little company called Microsoft here in 1975, although the software maker moved its 16 employees to Seattle in 1979. Intel now employs about 3,300 local residents in an advanced chip-making facility. The city’s prosperous neighborhoods have climbed the gently rising heights to the east; poorer residents have spread north and south along the Rio Grande. In the Old Town Plaza, some of the adobe buildings date to the 18th century. Hemmed in by the Sandia Mountains and by federal installations, growth is moving west and north, especially to the new town of Rio Rancho, home of the Intel plant and facilities for Sprint PCS and Victoria’s Secret. Despite its cold winters, Albuquerque is part of the Sun Belt. While Albuquerque has seen some growth in tourism—every October, it hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, which features many resident balloonists—it is heavily dependent on federal jobs.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of New Mexico includes Albuquerque and some of its suburbs. It is 45% Hispanic and takes in most of Bernalillo County and sparsely populated Torrance County in the desert. But the 1st does not include most of the big-growth suburbs of Corrales and Rio Rancho to the north in Sandoval County or Isleta and Las Lunas to the south in Valencia County. This has been one of the nation’s most competitive districts: It voted 51%-48% for John Kerry in 2004—Kerry visited Albuquerque six times during his campaign—but 60%-39% for Barack Obama in 2008. The district had elected a Republican to Congress since its creation in 1969, but the trend ended in 2008.