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Former NM Congresswoman tapped for role in Biden administration

Xochitl Torres Small (Courtesy image)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former New Mexico Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small has been nominated for a national role in the Biden administration, the White House announced Friday.

Torres Small has been nominated to be the undersecretary of rural development within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she would oversee a part of the agency that focuses on spurring economic development and essential services, like housing and health care, in rural parts of the country.

Torres Small, a centrist Democrat, represented New Mexico’s historically Republican 2nd Congressional District from 2018 to 2020. She lost her seat last November to Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican who now represents the sprawling district that covers southern New Mexico.

Torres Small is a water attorney who lives in Las Cruces, and she started in politics as a field organizer for former U.S. Sen. Tom Udall.

A White House announcement on the appointment recapped many of Torres Small’s accomplishments during her tenure in Washington.

During the pandemic, the White House said she kept a rural hospital open, improved constituent access to health care and helped secure tens of millions of dollars for broadband service in New Mexico through the USDA’s ReConnect Program. The Biden administration also said she served a leadership role on a broadband task force, and was on the House Agriculture Committee.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus praised the selection of Torres Small, a 36-year-old Latina.

“Congresswoman Torres Small has devoted her career to championing the needs of rural communities,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., the chairman of the caucus. “As rural communities continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact Congresswoman Torres Small’s diverse experience with rural communities is greatly needed.”

Her experience as a moderate Democrat working across party lines could serve her in the new role, said Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.

“She also has a proven track record of bringing people together and reconciling diverse interests,” he said.

The website credits Torres Small for being the primary sponsor of three bills that were enacted into law: Securing America’s Ports Act, which increased noninvasive surveillance at border checkpoints; the REACH VET Reporting Act, which aims to prevent suicides by offering assistance to struggling veterans; and the White Sands National Park Establishment Act, which created the second national park in New Mexico.

Other Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation also applauded Friday’s announcement.

“I can’t wait to support her nomination and work with her once again to help our rural communities recover from this pandemic and build long-term, sustainable growth,” Sen. Martin Heinrich said on Twitter.

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