New Mexico 2nd District
Southeastern New Mexico is a disparate landscape: endless sagebrush-strewn acreage and then, suddenly, 9,000-foot mountain peaks rising along the Continental Divide. The eastern part of this region—places like Clovis and Portales, Lovington and Hobbs—speaks with a Texas twang rather than a northern New Mexico lilt. In Little Texas, as southeastern New Mexico is known, oil has long been the economic mainstay. Cattle ranching is common, and cotton is grown on irrigated land. One of the larger towns is Roswell, site of a supposed flying-saucer landing in 1947 and now home of the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Farther west is White Sands National Monument, with its immaculate gypsum dunes and specially evolved animals with white coloration that allows them to elude predators in the harsh environment. Close by is Alamogordo, where the first atomic bomb was exploded at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945. Virgin Galactic, a company started by billionaire Richard Branson, has leased land near White Sands to build the nation’s first commercial spaceport. It plans to send passengers to the edge of space starting in 2010.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
As in many places on America’s high plains, population here is thinning and old economic pillars are crumbling. Once reliant on potash mining, Carlsbad aggressively sought the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a nuclear-waste repository. East of Carlsbad, a uranium-enrichment plant is under construction in Eunice, the first such facility licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In central and western New Mexico, the scrubland shades into desert, and people cram into small cities, protected from summer’s burning heat and winter’s deathly cold. The Hatch Valley, in the desert adjoining Interstate 25, is home to perhaps the world’s finest chili peppers—the traditional cornerstone of the Southwest’s spicy cuisine. Places like Silver City and Bayard were built on mining and occasional discord. The story of a strike by Mexican-American workers at a zinc mine here in 1950 and 1951 was told in the film Salt of the Earth. Now home to miners, artists, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, Silver City lacks the polish of Santa Fe or Taos, but locals like to say it offers “the real New Mexico experience.”
Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second-largest city, has grown at rates well above the statewide average, thanks to migrants from Mexico coming up the Rio Grande. Nearby are the Robledo Mountains, hailed by the Smithsonian Institution as the world’s greatest repository of pre-dinosaur era fossil tracks. For decades, Anglo and Mexican ranchers across the border spoke “the common language of cattle.” Communities frequently shared public services with their cross-border neighbors and left the gates open at night for stragglers stuck too late on the wrong side of the border. But rapid development due to 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, a surge in illegal immigration and a sharp uptick in drug trafficking have brought enormous strains. Still, the New Mexico portion of the U.S.-Mexico border remains far sleepier than elsewhere, and the border posts that dot New Mexico’s largely empty 150-mile frontier apprehend considerably fewer illegal immigrants than those in Arizona. The national training center for border-patrol agents has been consolidated in Artesia.
The 2nd Congressional District of New Mexico covers this southern part of the state, going as far north as the suburb of Las Lunas and the Isleta Pueblo south of Albuquerque and the Acoma Pueblo to the west. Demographically and politically, it is diverse. It includes most of New Mexico’s Little Texas—majority Anglo and solidly conservative, though with a Democratic heritage. It includes the politically marginal Las Cruces and the Democratic mining counties in the southwest corner of the state. And it includes the Indian country around the pueblos, which is strongly Democratic. The district is 49% Hispanic and 5% Indian. More Hispanics are ineligible to vote here than in the 1st and 3rd districts.