New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District has elected Republicans for the past four decades (minus a two-year blip 10 years ago). That changed last fall, when Xochitl Torres Small, D, won. The former water rights attorney now represents one of the nation’s largest districts, which covers more than half of New Mexico, from the Albuquerque suburbs to the southern border. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission. Torres Small attributes her success to her emphasis on issues her rural constituents care about, regardless of party.
A day after Republican Yvette Herrell closed the door on her 2018 campaign, she announced she would run for the seat again in 2020 and challenge Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, who narrowly defeated Herrell in November. “I’m running for Congress because I believe New Mexicans deserve a Representative who will work hard every day to keep growing our economy, safeguard our way of life from government overreach, and push for solutions and funding to protect our borders,” Herrell said. Herrell, who decided not to run for reelection to the state House of Representatives when she announced her congressional campaign last year, will likely face opposition in the Republican primary. The district has consistently voted for Republicans, only electing Democrats twice since the state earned a third congressional district in 1983. Herrell came out on top during a four-way Republican primary in 2018, which included former Republican Party of New Mexico chairman Monty Newman.
After inspecting absentee ballots from the 2nd Congressional District’s most-populous county, Republican Yvette Herrell decided not to challenge the results of the election she lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in November. Herrell announced the news Monday, the deadline to challenge the results. Torres Small took the oath of office and was sworn into Congress last week. “I did not believe that there were reasons to contest the election, but I did strongly feel that there were enough claims of irregularities to warrant a full review, and that we might learn things that could be of use to State House and Senate Committees as they continually try to update and improve our election laws,” according to Herrell’s statement. Torres Small’s office declined to comment.
Note: All week we will be counting down the top ten stories of 2018, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See them all here as they come in! New Mexico was the site of one of the closest and most hard-fought congressional races in the nation. Ultimately, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small pulled the upset and won the race for the state’s most conservative congressional district by just 3,722 votes. Outside political groups, such as PACs and Super PACs, on both sides poured millions of dollars into the southern-New Mexico race. And neither Torres Small nor Republican candidate Yvette Herrell had a free ride in the primary.
The southern New Mexico congressional district won by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small may prove to be the most-expensive race in state history. Torres Small defeated Republican Yvette Herrell and will replace Republican Steve Pearce, who ran for governor instead of seeking another term. As anyone who watched TV in the weeks ahead of the election, candidates and outside groups targeted the race in the national battle over the U.S. House of Representatives. In all, candidates and outside groups spent $12.7 million on the race according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with several weeks of spending from candidates not due until Dec. 6.
Republican Yvette Herrell campaigned for the 2nd Congressional District on a Trump-like platform—pro-border wall and speaking about illegal immigration—and appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. And after narrowly losing the congressional race to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in Tuesday’s election, Herrell showed up on President Donald Trump’s favorite TV network Saturday. The state legislator told a Fox News host that she isn’t conceding to Torres Small, and she questioned the counting of absentee ballots that provided the final margin of victory for her opponent. Herrell spoke on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” a program Trump himself appeared on before. According to Herrell, an hour after some media outlets called the race and she gave her victory speech, the Secretary of State’s office called and said, “They had magically found 4,000 ballots that had not been counted.” She said about an hour and a half later, the office said there were an additional 4,000 ballots.
All eyes were on Doña Ana County Wednesday night, as elections observers waited for county election workers to tally thousands of absentee ballots. When the county released the results for the 2nd Congressional District race on Wednesday night, the 6,411 to 1,847 margin gave Democrat Xochitl Torres Small a lead larger than the likely number of provisional ballots left. Many asked why it took election workers in Doña Ana County so long to count the votes. It came down to a lack of workers and an unforeseen influx of absentee votes. The county released the results of 8,350 absentee ballots Wednesday night (only 8,258 of which included votes for the razor-thin 2nd Congressional District race).
With absentee ballots in Doña Ana County finally counted, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small will be the next U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Torres Small needed a little over 1,800 more votes than Republican Yvette Herrell to win the race before the county’s absentee ballots were included in the vote totals. Torres Small blew past that number and netted an additional 4,564 votes, which gave her a 50.69 percent to 49.31 percent lead over her Republican opponent. In all, there were 8,258 absentee ballots for the race. Related: Democrats take back governorship
Wednesday evening, the Associated Press called the race for Torres Small.
The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows just how close the 2nd Congressional District race remains. The poll found that Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell leads her Democratic opponent, water attorney Xochitl Torres Small, 45 percent to 44 percent, with still 11 percent undecided. Nate Cohn of the New York Times, who is part of the congressional polling project for the newspaper, says it was their closest result yet. The poll notes that the margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent means each candidate’s true numbers could be that much in either direction. Spending in the district, which is in the millions by outside groups, shows they also believe the race is one of dozens in the nation that will determine who controls the U.S. House of Representatives.
It’s just over two weeks before Election Day in one of the hottest races in the country — the Second Congressional District covering the southern half of New Mexico. Attack TV ads and nasty mailers have bombarded the air waves and stuffed mailboxes — and in the age of social media, clogged the news feeds of fired-up voters – all paid for by millions in campaign cash, national Democratic and Republican party support and spending from dark money groups. And nothing points to the onslaught easing before Election Day. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. A 2nd Congressional District election is usually a quiet affair ending in a forgone conclusion.