New Mexico 3rd District
“The dancing ground of the sun,” is what the Pueblo Indians called the land of northern New Mexico, where the long vistas, dotted with low-lying scrub, are painted in pastel hues in the cold light and clear air. For 100 years, artists have been coming here, attracted by the scenery and by a unique civilization that is part Indian, part Anglo, part Spanish, and a little Mexican (northern New Mexico was under Mexican control only from 1821-46). The region’s long-surviving traditions, however, mask the instabilities of this blended civilization. The Indians were here first and built adobe pueblos, including some of the world’s earliest apartment buildings. The Spanish conquistadors and priests brought the Catholic religion, the baroque architectural accents and the Spanish language. Successive waves of American settlement have changed New Mexico in multiple ways. The Indian crafts that thrive today nearly died out in the 1880s. The Palace of the Governors, built in Santa Fe in 1610, was shorn of a Victorian balustrade and returned to its original appearance in 1913. Along the back roads in Rio Arriba or Taos counties, one can find a religion that mixes Catholicism with adaptations of Indian festivals, buildings not that much different from the old pueblos and a standard of living reminiscent of the Indian past, although sometimes punctuated by high rates of drug abuse. It’s quite a contrast with the chichi ski lodges in the Taos Valley, the high-security research facilities of Los Alamos and the affluent, bohemian lifestyles of modern-day Santa Fe, where zoning laws decree that the color of all buildings must be adobe brown.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of New Mexico contains most of the state’s historic Spanish-speaking and Indian parts. In 2007, Rio Rancho, with 76,000 residents, became the district’s most populous city, but trendy Santa Fe, where painter Georgia O’Keeffe was a major cultural force and local spas have encouraged the tourism boom, remains its most dominant. The 3rd runs from the High Plains along the Texas border, past the haunting Sangre de Cristo Mountains, through the vast ridges and isolated buttes in the center, to the windy and dusty desertlike plains. Its Hispanic population is 38%, the lowest of the state’s three districts. Another 17% of the district population is Indian, the most of the state’s three districts. Concentrated in and around the Navajo Reservation in the west, the district’s Indians live in abject poverty.
The politics of northern New Mexico are unique. For years, debate was conducted and votes bartered in Spanish, not by separatists, but by Republicans and Democrats, often cynically, sometimes corruptly. Loyalties ran to families and communities more than to principles or parties. In the backcountry, you can still find more than just vestiges of the old communities and old politics—though no one is going to let you in on them, even if you speak good Spanish. Republican territory includes the Little Texas counties, the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, the mining and ranching country around Farmington, and the nuclear scientists of Los Alamos, but on the whole, this is a Democratic district. Both Hispanics and Indians are solidly Democratic, and in Santa Fe and Taos, the affluent and hippie migrants have produced a strong leftist tilt. Politically, this is a sharply divided district. Santa Fe, Taos and San Miguel counties voted more than 70% for John Kerry in 2004 and more than 75% for Barack Obama in 2008. President George W. Bush in 2004 won 65% to 77% in the counties on the Texas border and 66% in Farmington’s San Juan County. Republican nominee John McCain’s 2008 winning percentages in those counties ranged from 59% to 70%. Overall, the district voted 54%-45% for Kerry in 2004 and 61%-38% for Barack Obama in 2008.