Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Editor’s Note: The Journal continues its series of stories focusing on key races in this year’s general election.
Just a few days into her term, hours after lawmakers were rushed to safety when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Yvette Herrell voted against certifying the election results in Pennsylvania and Arizona.
She was one of 147 Republicans who joined a coordinated effort to object to the certification of President Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump in a handful of states, a decision that continues to draw criticism.
Running to try to oust Herrell and flip the district back to Democrats is Gabe Vasquez, a Las Cruces city councilor.
“Her first vote in Congress, even after being at the Capitol, seeing the insurrection and the violence happen … she voted to decertify the votes of two states that she doesn’t even represent,” Vasquez said. “So right off the bat, I mean, she voted against democracy and voted against New Mexico.”
Herrell took to the floor that night to say that she was concerned about changes to vote-by-mail deadlines, identity verification requirements and other ballot-handling practices.
“It is my duty to give my constituents a voice. Signing these objections raises their concerns to the fullest extent my office allows,” she said in her speech on the House floor. “I again condemn, in the strongest terms, the violence that took place here yesterday. We have many issues to solve – including reforms to restore all Americans’ faith in the fairness of our elections. I look forward to those serious, civil, and peaceful debates.”
Herrell, the lone Republican member of New Mexico congressional delegation, continued to take positions throughout her term that put her at odds with the rest of the state’s members of Congress, who are all Democrats. Recently, she voted against a continuing resolution that funded the government and sent $2.5 billion in fire relief to northern New Mexico.
The southern New Mexico realtor and business owner is wrapping up her first term in Congress. Govtrack.us found about 22% of the bills Herrell introduced were related to immigration and 22% were related to energy. Her campaign has focused on the U.S. border with Mexico and high-crime rates in the state.
She is a member of the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Oversight and Reform. She’s also a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
A main focus of her campaign has been inflation and border security. She’s voted against several large spending bills that the rest of the state’s congressional delegation championed.
“Out of control spending in Washington has dramatically driven up the cost of living for hard working Americans, making it hard for many to make ends meet,” Herrell wrote in a Journal questionnaire. “As prices rise, job creators and small businesses face difficult decisions, slowing the economy. Prices can be lowered when Congress controls its spending.”
Vasquez, a first-generation American, has said that he’ll advocate for more humane and predictable border policy. He said he comes from a “mixed status” family.
“Folks in this country have relied on immigrant labor for far too long, without giving immigrants a fair opportunity to get in line in a predictable system that allows them to have either a worker visa, or temporary guest worker program,” he said.
Like other races in New Mexico and across the country, abortion has become a major issue on the campaign trail in the wake of this year’s Supreme Court’s ruling that ended a nationwide right to an abortion.
Herrell describes herself as “pro-life,” but said she thinks states should set abortion policy instead of a nationwide restriction. She said she does think there should be exemptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother.
Vasquez said he supports abortion rights.
An avid outdoorsman, Vasquez is the director of strategy and partnerships at Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors/National Wildlife Federation.
He volunteered for former President Barack Obama and was active with College Democrats at New Mexico State University. He has worked as a field representative for Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Vasquez said he will request to be on the Armed Services Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if elected. He said those assignments make sense given the amount of military and energy assets in southern New Mexico.
The congressional district has seesawed the last three elections. It went Republican in 2016, Democratic in 2018 and back to Republican in 2020. After redistricting this year, the district is considered to lean more Democratic, as it reaches farther into Albuquerque’s West Side and the South Valley.
The race has featured several advertisements in the Albuquerque television market. There’s an ad that targets Herrell for her stance on abortion.
Meanwhile, another ad accuses Vasquez of giving a fake name to an El Paso TV station in the summer of 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest. During a television news segment, Vasquez appeared with his face partially covered in sunglasses and a mask.
“We need serious police reform in this country,” he said in the interview. “It’s not just about defunding police, it’s about defunding a system that privileges white people over everyone else.”
Republicans accused Vasquez of giving the television station a fake name. Vasquez said he declined to provide his name and the television station admitted that a technical error led them to misidentify him.
Vasquez defended his appearance at the protest.
“I have stood with my community during times of unrest,” Vasquez said. “So that’s me showing my support for the community. And, you know, I was there with other prominent community leaders.”