In tight race, Torres Small shows off bipartisan work

Congresswoman Xotchilt Torres Small, D-N.M., listens to testimony at a meeting of the Department of Homeland Security in May.

In a tight race in New Mexico’s most conservative congressional district, New Mexico Democratic Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small is trying to showcase her work alongside Republicans, Democrats and even the Trump White House.

Last week, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of moderate Republican and Democratic House lawmakers that includes Torres Small, unveiled a negotiated framework for a coronavirus relief proposal that aims to bridge a wide gap between leadership from both parties. She also introduced legislation that would withhold the salaries of members of Congress if they can’t reach a budget deal, and her bill would also prioritize bipartisan legislation.

“I think folks in New Mexico value someone who is willing to step up and do the work and work with anyone who is wiling to share that load,” Torres Small said in an interview with the Journal last week.

She’s highlighting those efforts while locked in a tight race with Republican Yvette Herrell in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

The vast district covers all of southern New Mexico, including the state’s border with Mexico. Torres Small is only the second Democrat to hold the traditionally conservative district since 1981.

In 2018, Torres Small defeated Herrell by about 4,000 votes, and a recent Journal poll found the race is close again this year. Torres Small had a narrow advantage – 47% to 45% – in that poll.

The Herrell campaign is running ads in the Albuquerque and El Paso markets that call out Torres Small for voting alongside Nancy Pelosi most of the time.

And the campaign has recently been touting Herrell’s recent endorsement from President Donald Trump.

“It’s become a predictable pattern. During campaign season Xochitl Torres Small runs misleading ads claiming to be moderate, but in Washington she votes with Nancy Pelosi 95% of the time and voted to impeach President Trump twice. New Mexicans won’t be fooled this time around,” said Michael Horanburg, Herrell’s campaign manager.

But Torres Small said bipartisan efforts are what her constituents want.

And in the case of the coronavirus relief compromise, she said, it could break the current impasse in Washington.

The House of Representatives has passed a $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, and the Senate has proposed a $300 billion relief package, according to Roll Call.

The Problem Solvers plan would be about $1.5 trillion, though that number could go up or down depending on the course the pandemic takes.

It would come with another round of stimulus checks and an additional, but temporary, $450 in unemployment benefits that would then fall back to what the person was making prior to losing their job.

Will it be harder to sell the proposal to Republicans or Democrats?

“I think it’s just hard to sell to leadership (from both parties), in general, new ideas from rank-and-file members,” she said. “We will see. I will do my best to sell it to everyone.”

CLEANUP EFFORT: Democratic Rep. Debra Haaland joined with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey this week to introduce the Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act. The bill would lead to a $100 billion cleanup effort of “legacy pollution” sites.

The bill would also set aside $3 billion to provide American Indians and Alaska natives with safe drinking water and adequate sewage systems.

A VIRTUAL NM TOUR: New Mexico will play host to a virtual tour across western states as part of the “Road to 30” tour.

The tour is part of an effort to create conservation protections for 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.

New Mexico’s virtual stop along the tour is Monday, and Haaland, along with Sen. Tom Udall, are expected to take part in the event.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to state that New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is scheduled to attend the “Road to 30” virtual tour and clarified Torres Small’s recent legislation.

Ryan Boetel: rboetel@abqjournal.com

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