Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Strong performances in Bernalillo and Doña Ana counties propelled Gabe Vasquez to victory over Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District – a feather in the cap of New Mexico Democrats who dominated races throughout the state.
Vasquez declared victory Wednesday afternoon as the race was too close to call for hours after polls closed.
“To everyone out there struggling, no matter whether you voted for me or not, please know this: I see you, I hear you, and I’ll fight my heart out for you,” he said in a statement. “Because public service is a sacred responsibility that I will never take for granted.”
He won the competitive race by 1,224 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Herrell congratulated Vasquez on his victory, which she said was the result of Democratic gerrymandering.
State lawmakers changed the congressional maps earlier this year as part of redistricting, which is done every 10 years. The effects of those changes were apparent in the race, with parts of Bernalillo County’s South Valley and West Side new additions to the district.
Vasquez secured 59% of the vote in Bernalillo County, which earned him about 9,000 more votes than Herrell in the county. He also carried Doña Ana County 56% to 43%, which netted him a little more than 7,000 votes more than Herrell.
Herrell was up by several hundred votes late Tuesday, but Vasquez took a lead overnight after more votes were counted
“Gabe Vasquez’s lead has expanded as remaining absentee ballots were tabulated, further cementing his narrow, but widening, lead,” Journal Pollster Brian Sanderoff said Wednesday.
Herrell said redistricting split communities of interest and concentrated power in the urban parts of the state. Parts of southeast New Mexico, a traditionally more conservative area of the state that was previously part of the 2nd Congressional District, are now in the 1st and 3rd congressional districts.
“Two years ago, the Democrats in Santa Fe announced they would gerrymander our district to ensure they would totally control our state’s federal delegation. Unfortunately, they did just that, ignoring the will of the people in the process,” Herrell said in a statement. “While this was enough to give them a victory by less than 1% in this election, I am confident in our party’s ability to retake this seat next cycle as Joe Biden’s agenda continues to damage our great nation. Stay tuned!”
Herrell dominated Vasquez in rural parts of the district. In Eddy, Catron and Lea counties, she earned 74%, 75% and 78% of the vote, respectively. But those three counties netted her only about 8,200 more votes than Vasquez.
The race received national attention as Democrats and Republicans battled for control of Congress.
The Republican National Committee opened Hispanic community centers in the Bernalillo County portion of the district and in Las Cruces in an effort to make inroads with Hispanic voters.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee picked the race for its “Red to Blue program,” which seeks to raise money for Democratic candidates trying to flip congressional seats.
Herrell was running for a second term. Her campaign focused on inflation, border security and crime.
Vasquez, a first-generation American and former Las Cruces city councilor, focused on Herrell’s close alignment with more extreme members of her party. Herrell was one of the Republicans who, just days into her term, voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election – even after a pro-Trump mob swarmed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to flee.
New Mexico’s Democratic congresswomen also cruised to victories on Tuesday. So, Vasquez’s victory gave New Mexico a slate of entirely Democratic members of Congress.
Democrats also won every statewide race.