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Torres Small, Herrell make pitch to voters in Journal/KOAT debate

Second Congressional District candidates Yvette Herrell, left, and Xochitl Torres Small appear in a debate sponsored by KOAT and the Albuquerque Journal. (KOAT)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Democrat Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell clashed over the impeachment of President Donald Trump and their legislative records in a debate aired Sunday as they compete in one of the nation’s most closely watched congressional races.

Rep. Torres Small repeatedly characterized herself as someone willing to stand up to her own party and work with Trump and other Republicans to secure federal investment in the district and serve constituents.

Herrell, by contrast, described herself as a staunch conservative whose voting record in the state Legislature shows she’s a good match for the largely rural congressional district.

“I am unashamedly pro-God, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-business and pro-family,” Herrell said. “Those are the values that are important to the New Mexico 2nd Congressional District.”

Torres Small frequently cited her sponsorship of bipartisan legislation and membership in the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, a group split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

“I know good solutions – common-sense solutions – don’t come with a party label,” Torres Small said.

The hourlong debate aired simultaneously on KOAT and at Journal Senior Editor Kent Walz and KOAT-TV anchors Shelly Ribando and Doug Fernandez questioned the candidates and, in some cases, relayed questions submitted by voters.

KOAT News Anchors Doug Fernandez, left, Shelly Ribando, center and Senior Editor Kent Walz of the Albuquerque Journal question Second Congressional District candidates Yvette Herrell, left and Xochitl Torres Small, right during a debate sponsored by KOAT 7 and the Albuquerque Journal. (KOAT)

Herrell accused Torres Small of saying one thing but doing another – calling attention to Torres Small’s vote to impeach President Trump, who was accused of abusing the power of his office to pressure a foreign ally for personal political gain. He was acquitted by the Senate earlier this year.

Herrell described Torres Small as someone who campaigns as if she were an ally of Trump but who actually votes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Torres Small shot back that she had to hold the president accountable when national security was at stake.

“I’ve promised to work with anyone to deliver for New Mexico,” she said, but that “doesn’t mean being a pushover.”

Torres Small, meanwhile, slammed Herrell – a former member of the state House – for voting against legislation that would have prohibited legislators from working as lobbyists immediately after leaving office. The congresswoman said many New Mexicans have lost trust in who their government serves.

Herrell responded that the lobbying bill she voted against wasn’t ready and that she wanted something more comprehensive.

“When I served, we didn’t have the right answers at the time that would address the issues completely,” she said.

This year’s race is a rematch of 2018, when Torres Small, a water lawyer from Las Cruces, narrowly defeated Herrell, a former state representative from Alamogordo, in a traditionally Republican district.

A scientific Journal Poll published earlier this month showed Torres Small and Herrell locked in another tight race, with Torres Small leading by just 2 percentage points, well within the margin of error.

They are campaigning in the 2nd Congressional District covering the southern half of New Mexico.

In the Journal/KOAT debate, the candidates agreed on some issues. Both said they oppose defunding the police and oppose a ban on fracking. Each offered strong support for New Mexico’s oil and gas industry.

But they offered contrasting views on gun legislation.

Herrell said she wouldn’t support any legislation restricting gun rights.

“You can count on me to protect our Second Amendment,” she said.

Torres Small said she supported comprehensive background check legislation but opposed Democratic attempts to increase waiting periods for gun purchases.

“We know that you can both protect your Second Amendment rights and protect communities at the same time,” she said.

Absentee voting in the Nov. 3 general election begins Oct. 6 and early-voting locations open Oct. 17.


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