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The Democratic challenger in what is likely New Mexico’s most competitive U.S. House race is being targeted for tweets and statements he made prior to his candidacy that were critical of the oil and gas industry and implied the Trump administration was racist.
Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat, is running to oust Rep. Yvette Herrell, the lone Republican member of the state’s congressional delegation. The district includes the state’s border with Mexico and parts of the Permian Basin, a prolific oil and gas producing region.
The race is receiving national attention and is the most expensive House race in the state. Vasquez and Herrell’s campaigns had already spent nearly $5.3 million through the end of September, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The Republican National Congressional Committee released a television ad in New Mexico on Tuesday that quotes Vasquez in a 2018 podcast where he talked about shutting down the oil and gas industry. The ad dropped after CNN last week reported on a series of since-deleted tweets sent by Vasquez that referenced the Ku Klux Klan and the Trump administration. In other tweets he criticized politicians of color with different political ideologies and the oil and gas industries. And Fox News this week reported on emails Vasquez sent to constituents in 2020, saying he agreed with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Vasquez’s campaign pointed out that his record as a Las Cruces city councilor stands in contrast to some of his old tweets, which were written during times of strife in the country, including during the summer of 2020 during Black Lives Matter protests and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Vasquez said in a statement to the Journal that he will try to strike a balance in Congress. He said that means working to reform police while fully funding them, and fighting to protect oil and gas workers’ livelihoods and increase production while also expanding renewable energy jobs and holding extraction companies accountable for polluting.
“Republicans have tried to cherry pick my words and distort my record throughout this campaign,” he said. “As a city councilor, I voted, every year, to increase the police budget by millions. My actions clearly show my priorities and that I will work to solve the challenges all residents of our district face – regardless of party – instead of playing Washington political games like my opponent.”
While Republicans target his past statements, Vasquez ran an ad earlier this month in which he says he will protect a woman’s right to choose, pitting his stance on abortion against Herrell, who is against abortion except in certain circumstances.
The CNN report last week includes images from since-deleted tweets that Vasquez made in 2020 and prior to his candidacy.
In one tweet he said that conservation was a way forward to replace “the extremely toxic fossil fuel industry.”
In more than one tweet he used the term “AmeriKKKa” when commenting about the Trump administration and the Department of Justice.
He said white nationalism was to blame for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in a tweet that has been deleted. In another tweet, he referred to minority candidates who are on the other side of the political spectrum as vendidos, or sellout.
Earlier in the campaign, Republicans targeted Vasquez for comments he made during a Black Lives Matter protest in the summer of 2020. Vasquez appeared on an El Paso, Texas, television station’s segment where he said: “We need serious police reform in this country. It’s not just about defunding police, it’s about defunding a system that privileges white people over everyone else.”
When asked about the comments, Vasquez pointed out that he voted to increase the police budget as a city councilor.
“The more we find out about Gabe Vasquez’s real beliefs, the worse it gets,” Herrell said in a statement. “Whether it’s advocating for defunding the police, ending the oil and gas industry, using inflammatory racial rhetoric to divide New Mexicans, or repeatedly referring to our amazing country as ‘AmeriKKKa,’ Vasquez’s radical agenda is dangerous – and just plain wrong. Vasquez is pretending to be a moderate to get elected, but his true views are now in plain sight for all to see despite his best attempts to hide them from the voters.”