Rep. Xochitl Torres Small offers lessons in rural politics

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.

Herrell running for Congress again in 2020

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.

Herrell finishes review of ballots, won’t challenge election results

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.

2nd CD race ranks among the most-expensive in NM history

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.

Herrell sues to impound Doña Ana County absentee ballots

Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell filed a suit Tuesday, asking a judge to order the impound of absentee ballots in a key southern New Mexico county after she lost to Xochitl Torres Small in last week’s election. Herrell filed the suit in state district court and asked the court to order State Police to take control of absentee ballots and associated documents from Doña Ana County. She also wants an investigation into “reports of chain-of-custody issues and other improprieties” though she provided no evidence of problems.

The Doña Ana County Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results of last week’s election hours before Herrell filed the suit. In the filing, Herrell claims she was “stripped of [the] title” of winner of the election because of the results from the Doña Ana County absentee ballots. Some media outlets had already projected Herrell to win, but at least one, the Albuquerque Journal, did not know of the absentee ballots.

Herrell goes on Fox News to dispute vote count

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.

Huge absentee numbers helped lead to delay in Doña Ana County count

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).

Dems easily hold two seats, third race is extremely close

Democrats kept two U.S. House seats Tuesday night. And in a third, hotly contested race, the Republican leads, but thousands of uncounted of votes in a key county could flip things. The 2nd Congressional District race still isn’t over, thanks to approximately 8,000 absentee ballots whose results haven’t been posted. Out of those, 4,000 are yet to be counted. And, as journalist Heath Haussamen noted, approximately 1,000 provisional ballots also remain.

Poll shows Dems lead in most statewide races

A recent poll shows Democrats are poised to clinch most statewide races, while a congressional race remains too close to call and one expensive state race leans towards Republicans. A poll by Research and Polling, Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leads Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 43 percent in the race for governor. The ten point lead is an increase from the 7 percent race found in a September poll. The same poll found incumbent U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, leading in the three-way race against former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and contractor Mick Rich, a Republican. Heinrich is 20 points ahead of Rich and almost 40 ahead of Johnson.

Emerson poll: Lujan Grisham leads by 9, Heinrich by 16

A new poll shows good news for Democrats in New Mexico’s two top statewide races and  a close race for a hard-fought congressional race in southern New Mexico. Emerson College released their second round of polling of likely voters in New Mexico, and the poll showed Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican Steve Pearce 53 percent to 44 percent in the gubernatorial race. The two are involved in an expensive race that has included millions of dollars spent on TV ads from both sides in the hopes of replacing Susana Martinez as governor. Martinez, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term. A previous Emerson College poll conducted in August showed Lujan Grisham leading Steve Pearce 42 percent to 40 percent.