Today, the Journal begins its endorsements for the Nov. 8 general election with our recommendations for Congress. For more information including candidate Q&As, district maps, and news stories and endorsements as they are published, go to the Journal Election Guide at abqjournal.com.
Congressional District 1
Democratic incumbent, Melanie A. Stansbury
Stansbury, while only in her second year in Congress, is mastering the legislative art of bringing home the bacon.
On her first day in office on June 14, 2021 — after handily winning a special election on June 1, 2021 — Stansbury was given just five hours to compile a list of community-funded projects to be included in a House appropriations bill. She got to work right away, securing over $10 million that included $5.25 million for the Moriarty Fire Station and $1 million for Albuquerque’s Trauma Recovery Center.
Sixteen months later, she hasn’t slowed down delivering for her district. She recently secured more than $18 million in community projects in a House appropriations bill that includes $1.5 million for the first dedicated facility for homeless youth in Albuquerque and $300,000 for the first all-veteran transitional housing campus in New Mexico. These are tangible projects that will enhance public safety, boost mental health availability, address homelessness and help veterans.
A water-resources professional, Stansbury is quickly becoming a champion in Congress on water and hunger issues. She’s sponsored three water-related bills that have passed the House — including one providing $50 million for clean drinking water infrastructure projects in central New Mexico — and secured $875,000 in a House budget bill for the East Mountain Food Pantry to expand its services through a purpose-built facility.
Another Stansbury bill that passed the House, the Partnerships for Energy Security and Innovation Act, was rolled into the broader CHIPS Act and signed into law. Her bill boosts the STEM economy by channeling research and innovation funding to higher education institutions and private-sector partners.
Not bad for a freshman, who’s also strongly committed to bringing home resources to fight crime, drug addiction and homelessness while tackling climate change and advocating for immigration reform, which she notes passed the House and is parked in the Senate.
As a state lawmaker for two years in the Senate and a staffer with White House Office of Management and Budget, Stansbury has shown an ability to work the legislative process for her district. Through her hard work on Capitol Hill she has earned a new full term.
Stansbury faces Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes to represent the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District that includes most of Albuquerque and extends all the way to northern Roswell. Balancing the interests of the Metro and more conservative areas in Chaves, Lincoln and Otero counties will be a challenge, but Stansbury has shown a willingness and ability to work across the aisle to get things done for New Mexico.
Congressional District 2
Democrat Gabe Vasquez
For voters in the 2nd Congressional District who are partisan loyalists, the race between Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell and Democratic challenger Gabe Vasquez is an easy call. For us moderates, unfortunately, there is no clear pick. Whoever wins is likely to be either well left or well right of center.
Ultimately, we give a nod to Vasquez for several reasons.
Herrell has tied herself closely with former President Trump; Vasquez has made, and tried to cover up, extremist statements on social media about race, policing, fossil fuels and immigration. Recently, both have tried to soften their extreme positions.
For Herrell, one of her first actions in Congress was to object to certifying the Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Later, she voted against the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Asked a simple yes/no question in a Journal questionnaire about whether she believed Trump’s claim that he was the legitimate winner, Herrell said “Joe Biden is our president. But there are concerns about election integrity that still need to be addressed.” For Vasquez, he is now saying how “incredibly important” the oil and gas industry is to New Mexico after deleting tweets that oppose fracking and support the Green New Deal.
Yet Vasquez’s actions have spoken louder than words. Though dark-money ads have made him out to be a “defund the police” extremist, he consistently voted to increase the budget of police in Las Cruces, where he served on the City Council from 2018-21. He also seems determined to bring more economic empowerment to the district, and has valuable experience with the business community as the former executive director of the Las Cruces Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
His primary goals in Congress include strengthening the middle class and prioritizing workers and small businesses. New Mexico’s southern congressional district — which after redistricting now reaches up to include a chunk of metro Albuquerque — needs an advocate for immigration reform. Vasquez — a native Spanish speaker and first-generation American who has lived on both sides of the border — brings a needed perspective to the issue.
We hope that, if elected, he lives up to his more recent, moderate stances.
Meanwhile, we have a hard time getting past Herrell’s votes, including against the CHIPS And Science Act, a must-have for the nation and New Mexico.
Her staff explained she voted against the bill because “… the Democrat majority tied the CHIPS and Science Act to a massive tax hike and spending spree. …”
Such are the tough choices of members of Congress. While Herrell’s concerns for “fiscal responsibility, lower taxes and reining in the national debt” are valid, New Mexico needed her support on the bill critical to rebuilding our domestic computer chip production.
She also let New Mexicans down when she voted against a $2.5 billion appropriation to cover wildfire recovery costs in northern New Mexico.
New Mexico needs problem solvers who can negotiate and find common ground. Herrell has too often simply voted “no” to earn our endorsement.
Congressional District 3
Democratic incumbent, Teresa Leger Fernández
The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire was personally painful for Leger Fernández, a 17th generation New Mexican who describes her genealogy as “a little bit of everything.”
Being a native of Las Vegas, N.M., it’s little surprise she has become a leading force in Congress on holding the federal government responsible for starting the most destructive wildfire recorded in New Mexico.
It’s clear talking to Leger Fernández that she’s still angry about the U.S. Forest Service conducting a prescribed burn during high winds in April, leading to the Hermits Peak Fire, and the agency abandoning a burn pile several miles west that erupted into the Calf Canyon Fire. The merged fires ultimately scorched an area more than twice the size of Chicago and forced 15,500 New Mexico households to evacuate.
“I will hold the federal government accountable when they have done wrong, not just get angry about it, but get results,” she told the Journal Editorial Board.
Leger Fernández has delivered those results, leading the state’s congressional delegation in efforts to secure funding to help northern New Mexicans recover. She and Sen. Ben Ray Luján sponsored legislation that resulted in $2.5 billion of federal funds that will cover insured and uninsured property loss, lost wages, reforestation costs, business interruption loss, insurance deductibles, new flood insurance needed for area residents and other financial impacts.
Traditionally, FEMA doesn’t fully reimburse people after natural disasters, and specifically targeted funding bill is rare in Congress. So this was a feat.
Leger Fernández says securing an additional $2.9 billion in wildfire recovery funds is a priority if elected.
Leger Fernández is also a leading voice in Congress for Indigenous peoples. She’s the chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States and as a private attorney for 30 years she worked with Native American tribes and organizations on a whole range of issues including economic development, financing, building health clinics, protecting sacred sites and voting rights.
She’s also prioritized making sure every New Mexican finally has access to clean drinking water, helping secure $190 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project as well as $160 million for the Eastern N.M. Rural Water System Pipeline for residents in Clovis, Portales, Cannon Air Force Base, Texico and Elida. She has also been a steadfast advocate to help those affected by PFAS contamination and for ensuring health care access for our veterans.
Leger Fernández, who’s also strongly committed to tackling climate change, is a good fit for the diverse 3rd Congressional District that now stretches from Farmington to northern Hobbs after its redrawing. She faces Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.