The Associated Press has called former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez the winner of the Democratic primary election for the 2nd Congressional District nomination, defeating Dr. Darshan Patel, of Lea County. On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell did not face a primary opponent. Vasquez will now run against Herrell in November. Herrell defeated Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in 2020 in one of the most contested, and most expensive, House of Representative seat races in the country. Democrats consider the 2nd Congressional District a race that is in play.
With a Supreme Court decision expected this summer on the Mississippi anti-abortion law most court watchers believe will overturn or gut protections granted by Roe v. Wade, Democrats and Republicans could find abortion playing a large role in the upcoming race for U.S. House representation in southern New Mexico. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver its decision on Dobbs v. Whole Women’s Health. Mississippi passed a law in 2018 that outlawed abortion after 15 weeks. The one abortion provider in the state offers abortion up to 16 weeks. The law is not currently in effect in Mississippi because the lower courts struck it down as unconstitutional, but Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to hear the state’s appeal.
Just like two years ago, Republican Yvette Herrell declared victory late Tuesday night. She wrote on Twitter, “It’s the honor of my life to be elected to serve [the 2nd Congressional District]. My commitment to each citizen of our district is that I will serve each of them with integrity as we work together to rebuild our economy and protect the values that make America great!”
This time, however, the Associated Press projected Herrell as the victor in the race, at 12:13 a.m.
Torres Small’s campaign said early Wednesday morning she did not have a comment but would reach out later in the morning. In 2018, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small ended up winning the race narrowly, after all absentee ballots were counted. Herrell had a much smaller lead after the tally ended on election night in 2018.
This year’s rematch between Democrat Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell in New Mexico’s second congressional district is one of the most closely-watched in the nation, generating tensions within the state’s oil and gas industry and tens of millions in outside spending. Roll Call has identified Torres Small as one of the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents up for re-election this year. The respected Cook Political Report rates the race as a tossup.
This story was written by New Mexico In Depth and is republished with permission through a Creative Commons license. At this point, candidates and outside groups have spent a combined sum exceeding $30 million. Spending in 2018 approached $14 million, in a year when across the country record spending was recorded.
The final Albuquerque Journal poll ahead of the elections showed large leads for Democrats in the race for president and U.S. Senate, as well as two of the three U.S. House races—but one House race is extremely close. The poll, conducted by Research and Polling, found a lead of 12 percentage points for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump for president, 54 percent to 42 percent among those who are likely to vote or who have already voted. Most analysts have listed New Mexico as a safely or likely Democratic state on the presidential level. Democrats have won New Mexico’s five electoral votes in the last three presidential elections. The Journal reported Biden had large leads among women, Hispanic voters and moderates in addition to liberals.
Dressed in denim on a windy day in front of an oil and gas rig, Xochitl Torres Small looks into the camera and says, “Washington doesn’t get us,” then tells viewers she fought to get workers the coronavirus relief they deserve.
The ad is just one of many in which Democrat Torres Small is positioning herself as an ally of oil and gas this election year as she strives to win a second term in New Mexico’s southern congressional district, one of just 26 of 435 House races across the nation declared a tossup by the respectedCook Political Report. It’s New Mexico’s most competitive high-profile contest.
Two years after Torres Small beat former Republican state lawmaker Yvette Herrell by fewer than 4,000 votes out of nearly 200,000 cast, the two women are facing off again in 2020, and Torres Small is making sure to stress her oil and gas bona fidesOil and gas money powers the economy in the 2nd Congressional District and generations of families have come up through the oil patch in a solidly Republican swath of counties in southeast New Mexico.
Xochitl Torres Small 2020 social media ad claiming her support for oil and gas workers. The first-term Democrat insists she would not vote to ban fracking, a drilling method that has greatly expanded U.S. fossil fuel production and flooded New Mexico with revenue before the pandemic crippled the state economy. Advocates who want to ban the procedure, which injects chemical laden water at high pressure into underground rock formations, say fracking threatens human health in addition to increasing greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels. But industry professionals and their supporters insist it can be done safely and responsibly.
Torres Small also took to Twitter last week to call out her party’s presidential nominee, tweeting it was wrong to “demonize” one industry in the fight against climate change after Joe Biden said he’d work to transition to an economy based on renewable energy and away from the current oil economy.
Her efforts to trumpet her support of oil and gas come at a time when the industry itself is in turmoil and internal tensions between larger companies and their smaller New Mexico-based counterparts are bursting into the open, particularly over how to talk about Torres Small and her record.
Ryan Flynn, executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, whose board of directors is dominated by out-of-state oil producers, told the Associated Press in August that Torres Small has been a “strong advocate for our state’s energy interests.”
Flynn’s comment ignited a mini-firestorm among Republican loyalists.
New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce, a former congressman in the southern district who made a fortune selling his oil field services company, condemned Flynn’s statement.
The city of Albuquerque’s 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage special on Wednesday was both a celebration of the 19th amendment and a reminder of the darker moments behind voting rights. A bevy of women speakers, from political leaders like Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to young women pledging to vote for the first time this year, talked about the importance of voting and frequently referred to it as a way to make their voices heard. Many also spoke about the struggle for women of color to gain the right to vote even after the passage of the 19th amendment. Social justice advocate Pamelya Herndon, executive director and founder of KWH Social Justice Law Center and Change, brought up the education requirements that some Black voters faced for a century in some states after the Civil War ended as just one impediment. Herndon said the historical social justice leader and “leading male feminist of his time,” W.E.B. Du Bois said that “in order for the Black race to be lifted, every single Black person must have the right to vote.”
The women’s suffrage movement distanced itself from the concept of Black women having the right to vote in the early years of the effort because the suffragettes didn’t want to alienate the white Southern women involved in the cause, according to historians.
Santa Fe — Before the federal Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspended his short-lived and highly controversial policy changes, the slowdowns it caused had already trickled into rural New Mexico.
Fernando Rodriguez, a window clerk at the Roswell post office, said mail that was usually processed in a day or two would take most of the workweek. Earlier this week, he said federal authorities were already trying to make cuts at his facility.
“They’re trying to shut down some of the machines,” said Rodriguez, president of the statewide union for rural and small-city postal workers. “Those machines cost millions of dollars, why not use them to the best of their abilities?’’
However, the Trump administration’s latest attacks on the Postal Service are just part of the issue in New Mexico. Rural post offices have faced cutbacks for years that have led to inadequate staffing and slow mail turnaround times. “It’s really an attack on rural America,” said Roxanne Heckman, a maintenance worker and vice president for the New Mexico postal worker union.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small spoke during the political action committee Emily’s List virtual conference this week, highlighting women’s accomplishments in politics. Lujan Grisham took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s “refusal to do the bare minimum,” during the pandemic as she highlighted the accomplishment’s women have made, particularly during the public health emergency. She cited governors Gretchen Whitmer, of Michigan, and Gina Raimondo, of Rhode Island, in particular, for their leadership during the pandemic and called New Mexico “a leader in electing women.”
“Almost a third of women of color who have ever served in any statewide executive office are from New Mexico,” she said in an online speech. “We have the opportunity this fall to send an all women of color House delegation to Washington, D.C. and we have the momentum on our side.”
Lujan Grisham was referring to Democratic candidates Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Torres Small, the incumbent Democratic candidate running to keep her seat for the state’s 2nd Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, another incumbent Democrat running to keep her seat for the 1st Congressional District. Torres Small spoke briefly about some of the difficulties of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico during the pandemic and how COVID-19 exposed inequities that have “existed since the birth of our nation.”
She cited the lack of water and lack of adequate living situations in the Navajo Nation as having contributed to the spread of the disease in the Navajo Nation.
The primary campaign was dominated by attacks between Herrell and oil and gas lobbyist Claire Chase. Chase came under fire in the early days of the campaign for social media posts made in 2015 and 2016 that were critical of President Donald Trump. Chase has since praised Trump for his “fearless leadership.”
Related: Progressive Democrats defeat incumbents, with some races still pending
Chase took more vots in Chaves and Eddy counties, but fell behind Herrell in Doña Ana County and Lea County. Chase garnered 31.62 percent of the vote as of 2 a.m. Wednesday to Herrell’s 44.77 percent.