Three Sandoval County commissioners made a decision last week to dramatically alter the voting power of many Sandoval County residents, especially those who live in Corrales. The meeting held on December 9 was a follow-up to one held on November 18, when the commissioners presented potential redistricting maps to the public. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.20 December 4, 2021 “Gerrymandering: Is Corrales Voting Strength at Risk?”)
Former Republican Senator Rod Adair, whose business was contracted by Commissioner David Heil and Wayne Johnson, the County Manager, presented four maps he had drawn, and a private citizen, Isaac Chavez, presented one. Public support for what came to be known as “the Chavez Plan” was overwhelming at the meeting and in the comments on the county website.
Chairman Commissioner Heil found minor flaws in Chavez’s plan that according to him, made it obsolete. Many Sandoval County residents, as well as Commissioner Katherine Bruch, saw flaws in Adair’s plans as well. After this meeting, Chavez teamed up with Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald to visit with tribal leaders in the county, trying to quickly determine what should happen to make “the Chavez Plan,” now called “the Eichwald Plan,” better serve their needs.
Both Adair and Chavez made alterations to their plans, and brought these to the December meeting.
After almost three hours of public comment largely begging the commissioners to either delay making a decision or to move forward with the adoption of “the Eichwald Plan,” the three Republican commissioners who sit on the Sandoval County Commission decided to ignore the input of so many of their constituents and approve a map that may well be deemed illegal in the coming months or years.
To the surprise of many attending the meeting, Commissioner Jay Block not only rejected “the Eichwald Plan,” but also the altered Adair plan. And instead made a motion to approve one of the plans from the November 18 meeting. Quickly, Commissioner Heil seconded this motion. A vote ensued in which the commissioners voted along party lines.The new Sandoval County district map, uproots Corrales from its current district and places it with Bernalillo and Placitas.
It was revealed at the meeting that Adair’s hiring is particularly contentious and may open the door for litigious action to be taken against the commission. His contract, though over $10,000, is under the $60,000 limit that requires the approval of the full commission. Also, before his hiring, Adair stated that he would get input from local and tribal leaders before drawing his maps. At least one leader, Corrales’ own Mayor Jo Anne Roake, was not consulted.
Former Sandoval County Commissioner Donnie Leonard was involved in the last two Sandoval County redistricting efforts.
Leonard weighed in on the contentious decision made at the meeting, saying, “It’s my understanding that Native Americans are for sure going to sue.”
He went on to say, “In the past we tried to give all groups in the county fair representation. This time, that did not happen.”
Commissioners David Heil, Michael Meek and especially Commissioner Block, whose district includes Corrales, may be remembered for exposing Sandoval County government to expensive litigation, as well as for disregarding input from the county’s tribal leaders.
While perhaps ensuring a Republican majority on the Sandoval County Commission well into the future, the body is supposed to represent an overwhelmingly majority-Democratic population, so some of the commissioners may have put their own political futures in jeopardy.
As Block summarized, in perhaps his most candid moment of the evening, “You should never trust the government.”