SANTA FE — Propelled by strong Republican turnout, former state legislator Yvette Herrell defeated Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small late Tuesday to capture a seat in the U.S. House — flipping control of a district that had been a national priority for the GOP this year.
The Associated Press called the race for Herrell after midnight Wednesday morning.
The race was a rematch from two years ago, when Torres Small narrowly won the district over Herrell, becoming just the second Democrat in 40 years to represent the southern New Mexico district.
Herrell had an eight point advantage over Torres Small — about 21,000 votes out of the 261,000 tabulated — as she won one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the country.
She said she was excited to get to work.
“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,” Herrell said in a written statement late Tuesday.
Throughout the campaign, Herrell pitched herself to voters as an ally of Trump — someone who would defend the conservative values of a district that covers the oil-rich Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico.
“Having President Trump at the top of the ticket has just really energized the base in New Mexico,” she told the Journal after polls closed.
Torres Small campaigned as a pragmatist willing to work with anyone — including President Trump — on behalf of the district. She touted her membership in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and said she had stood up to her own party to defend oil and gas workers.
In a video appearance organized by the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Torres Small said shortly after polls closed that she was grateful to her supporters, friends and family.
“If this campaign has taught me anything,” she said, “it has taught me not to be afraid to hope and not be afraid to try.”
The 2nd Congressional District campaign was brutal. Each candidate faced a barrage of negative advertising as both parties seized on the race as one of the most competitive in the nation.
The district — one of the largest in the country — covers the southern half of New Mexico. It includes communities along the border with Mexico; Las Cruces, home to New Mexico State University; and southeastern counties that serve as major producers of oil and natural gas.
Herrell, 56, is a Realtor from Alamogordo and a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Torres Small, 35, worked as a water rights lawyer in Las Cruces before joining Congress. Her husband, Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, is a member of the state House.
Also competing for the seat was Steve Jones, a retired energy executive with no party affiliation. He ran as a write-in candidate.
A Journal Poll from late October showed Herrell with a lead of 2 percentage points over Torres Small, though the edge was well within the survey’s margin of error.