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Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
The Republican candidates for the 2nd Congressional District seat have viciously attacked each other over loyalty to President Donald Trump.
Two of the three campaigns also have attacked the other candidate’s character.
But Roswell oil and gas executive Claire Chase, former state Rep. Yvette Herrell and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys aren’t very far apart on many of the issues in their bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small.
So what does each candidate feel voters should weigh when choosing between the three?
Chase, 37, believes her business experience in the oil and gas industry, as well as serving on the staff of former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, gives her an edge over Herrell and Mathys. She has served as chairwoman of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and director of community relations for Mack Energy.
“Another big difference is that I can actually win in November,” she said, pointing to Herrell’s loss to Torres Small for a seat the Republican Pearce held 14 out of 16 years.
Herrell, 56, insists she is the most electable. She lost to Torres by fewer than 3,000 votes. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she made it a priority to attend more community events and committed to debates, which is something she didn’t do in 2018.
“I’m more about meeting people in the flesh and talking about my experience,” she told the Journal.
The Alamogordo resident believes her experience as a legislator would also serve her well in D.C. She served four terms as a state representative.
“People know me as a principled leader putting their values above politics,” Herrell said.
Mathys, 62, said he is the only one of the three who has defeated “a progressive opponent.” He served on the city council in Fresno, California, before moving to New Mexico seven years ago. He also narrowly lost in his bid for the party’s nomination for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission in 2018.
“I am a businessman and have been responsible for a payroll for 30 years,” he said.
Mathys, a U.S. Army veteran, is the owner of two companies and a licensed real estate broker.
Political pollster Brian Sanderoff describes the battle between Herrell and Chase as “extremely negative and nasty,” and said it seems “they are trying to outdo the other” in portraying their loyalty to President Donald Trump.
Herrell’s campaign reminded voters of Chase’s anti-Trump comments she made leading up to the 2016 election, including calling the future president an “a**hole unworthy of the office.” Chase’s campaign has run ads claiming Herrell stood against the president, citing Herrell’s attendance at a legislative conference in 2015 in which attendees were asked about supporting Trump and no one indicated support.
Herrell said she supported President Trump since the beginning; Chase threw her early support behind Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida.
As for Mathys, he has harsher words for Herrell than for Chase.
“Yvette started the ‘I am a bigger Trump supporter than my opponents’ instead of focusing on the issues,” he said, but added that all three will support Trump’s agenda.
When it comes to the issues, the three candidates said they support the president’s efforts to build a wall on the border with Mexico and cited the need for other security measures. Each support a ban on late-term abortions and oppose federally funded abortions.
Chase, Herrell and Mathys said they oppose a federal ban on the sale of military-style semi-automatic rifles, and said they are supporters of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
They also oppose a single-payer health care system.
“Single-payer health care medicine results in long waits for surgeries and allows the government to determine who gets the care they need,” Mathys said. “We need to make sure prescription drugs are priced the same regardless of where you buy them.”
Herrell said the nation needs a free market-driven health care system, which she said will “reduce the cost, increase choices, and keep the quality of care high.”
“Health care in America continues to be too expensive for our working families,” she told the Journal. “… I will never support a single-payer health care system in our country: that will only lead to lower quality and less access to care, while massively growing the size of government.”
All three said a fracking ban as proposed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and endorsed by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in a debate with Sanders, would be bad for New Mexico and the nation as a whole.
“Fracking is one of the most important processes that will make us energy independent,” Mathys said.
And he said a 10-mile buffer zone, such as one proposed by the current congressional delegation, around Chaco Culture National Historic Park “is not practical.”
“Our state’s cultural heritage is very important, but we need to protect farming, mining, and continue to benefit from the revenue generated from oil and gas,” he said.
Herrell said fracking “is a proven and safe technology that has allowed New Mexico to become a global energy leader, while keeping energy costs low for our families.”
“I believe we can strike a balance between responsible development of energy resources while still protecting our important cultural sites,” she said.
Chase said she strongly supports leasing of federal land for oil, gas, and mineral development.
“The revenues generated from these leases fund our local schools, roads and law enforcement. I have also seen firsthand the extraordinary measures our oil and gas operators take to ensure they protect our cultural treasures when developing on public lands.”
All three said the Green New Deal proposed in Congress would harm the New Mexico economy.
“Right now, New Mexico is facing a multi-billion-dollar revenue shortfall because of crashing oil prices,” Chase said. “Misguided policies like the Green New Deal would make that a permanent reality and bankrupt our state.”
Herrell said the Green New Deal and Energy Transmission Act were “radical policies” that would put thousands of New Mexicans out of work.
“We all have a responsibility to take care of the planet and protect the environment, but this is best done through conservation efforts and common sense rules, not excessively burdensome mandates,” she said.
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