Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
LAS CRUCES – In the hard-fought race for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small is working to win over independent voters.
“I certainly know that the 2nd Congressional District has a strong independent streak,” Torres Small said in an interview Friday. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard on the trail from people who vote for people, not for a party. That’s something that resonates with me.”
During the first 10 years she was a registered voter, she declined to state a party “because I believed sometimes parties get in the way of solving problems,” she said.
Although Torres Small said her campaign is about policies, not a party line, she could be part of a predicted blue wave this November in a race that is attracting national attention.
“We’re all frustrated with what’s happening in Washington and what’s been happening for a long time in terms of people not working together, being ignored by Washington and now excited about solving problems instead of causing division,” she said.
The 33-year-old Las Cruces native is a water lawyer, a former field representative for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Torres Small is one of two women on the ballot for the seat now held by Republican Steve Pearce, who did not seek re-election so he could run for governor. Her opponent, Republican Yvette Herrell, has been a state representative for eight years.
“People are tired of being ignored and want someone who sees this as a job of public service, not something for their own personal benefit,” said Torres Small, a first-time candidate.
Torres Small’s campaign has six field offices, and she has been knocking on doors introducing herself to voters in one of the geographically largest districts in the country.
“I’ve seen polls where my name recognition is actually higher than my opponent’s, and I think that’s because we are on the ground,” she said.
Her priorities include ensuring access to affordable health care for all Americans and ensuring veterans have access to services and the transportation they need to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs clinics.
She also wants to improve education and economic opportunities for New Mexicans and is concerned about the state’s brain drain. Both her brother and best friend “had to choose between the home they love and the best opportunities.”
Her opponent, Herrell, favors building a border wall, but Torres Small said that in some places law enforcement and technology are better solutions. In a television campaign ad, she walks along a huge border fence in New Mexico and says, “Instead of wasting billions on a new border wall and separating families, let’s actually fix the process for work visas.”
Torres Small is also a firm supporter of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection for immigrants known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were children.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee picked Torres Small to be one of its “red to blue” candidates, resulting in extra national financial support. The DCCC paid for television attack ads against Herrell.
Torres Small has also been the target of attack ads paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee that call her a “Nancy Pelosi liberal.” It’s a label she disagrees with because she is a “different kind of Democrat,” according to her campaign.
Torres Small is promising to reach across the aisle for solutions, touting her experience as a water lawyer working with local governments, farmers, developers and conservationists.
The party of the incumbent president typically fares worse during midterm elections, and Democrats hope to translate President Donald Trump’s high disapproval rating into a larger-than-usual voter turnout in November that could favor Torres Small.
Torres Small said her campaign is about more than Trump.
“The issue is bigger in New Mexico,” she said. “The issue is we’ve been ignored for a very long time. Folks are most eager to find someone who is willing to work on solving problems instead of causing division.”
Q-and-A’s online: To find out the candidates’ positions on key issues, go to ABQJournal.com/election2018. The site also includes links to Journal stories on statewide, legislative and county-level races, district maps, key election dates and other voter resources. It will be updated regularly with new candidate profile stories and other information.