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Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., said she stands by her record in Congress and has been straightforward with her constituents. Gabe Vasquez, the Democratic challenger, argued that Herrell voted against New Mexico’s interest.
The two candidates vying to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of southern New Mexico and parts of Albuquerque’s South Valley and West Side, faced off in a 30-minute debate Friday night on KOB-TV. They were asked questions about the border, election results, the oil and gas industry, vaccines and abortion.
“Here’s what I know, we want a nation that has a strong economy, a nation that’s safe,” Herrell said during her opening remarks. “And we want to make sure we live in a country that celebrates the Constitution.”
Herrell said she’s worked to bring money back to the state while also pushing back against the Democratic majority in the House.
“One party rule isn’t working,” she said.
Vasquez spoke in Spanish at several points and recalled his working class family who immigrated to the state from Mexico.
“The American dream means you should be able to afford health care in this country, we should have the freedom to make your own decisions about your own body in this country, that you should be paid a fair wage,” Vasquez said. “It’s so critically important that this economy works for everybody.”
The district includes New Mexico’s border with Mexico and immigration emerged as a topic in the debate.
“It’s a problem and we have to solve it. It means closing our border down so that immigration is done properly not illegally,” Herrell said. “We can’t afford more of the same.”
Vasquez has said he favors working to streamline worker visa programs. He said immigrants play a crucial role in the state’s economy.
“We must work together in a bipartisan fashion to have a predictable and a humane immigration system,” he said.
Abortion has also been a topic in the campaign. Vasquez said there should be a federal law enshrining abortion rights.
Herrell said she thinks state legislatures should decide the issue.
“I do agree with the (Supreme Court’s) decision. As a matter of fact, it did not change any of … New Mexico’s abortion laws, and it didn’t deny access to abortion for any woman,” she said. “And I think it’s sad that we use a topic that is so personal and should be made between a woman, their family, their doctor, and use it for political gain.”
One of Herrell’s first acts in Congress was voting against certifying the election results in other states. She defended her vote when asked about it Friday.
“As a member of Congress, I have a duty to take concerns that have risen to the Congressional level in terms of not certifying the election and get those results back to the state so they can review them in their legislative branches,” she said. “Listen, it’s no surprise Democrats and Republicans for years have not certified the election.”
Vasquez has faced attack ads for participating in Black Lives Matter protests and prior statements he’s made about the oil and gas industry. Herrell said during the debate that she wants to “unleash American energy.”
Vasquez said he would take a different approach.
“The difference between myself and my opponent is that we can actually be a bigger energy champion in this country, we can have a two-track approach that includes unlocking the renewable energy potential that we have here, especially in Southeast New Mexico,” he said. “However, we also have to make sure that we hold oil and gas companies accountable.”