Yvette Herrell launches campaign for U.S. House alongside Speaker Kevin McCarthy - Albuquerque Journal

Yvette Herrell launches campaign for U.S. House alongside Speaker Kevin McCarthy

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks on Monday at an event to announce former New Mexico Congresswoman Yvette Herrell’s 2024 run for the U.S. House. Hundreds attended the campaign launch at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. (Ryan Boetel/Albuquerque Journal)

LAS CRUCES — Former U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell appeared alongside U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to officially launch her campaign to reclaim her seat representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

Herrell, a GOP-lawmaker who represented the district from 2021-2023, took to a stage at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and targeted current Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez for his support of abortion rights, a vote he took on a crime bill and his stance toward American energy development before she announced her candidacy.

“America needs us to stand up, stand strong and be courageous. This is our Nehemiah moment,” said Herrell, who previously filed her “statement of candidacy.””We have just over a year to get it right. … And we’re going to get it done.”

McCarthy was the first to spring to his feet and lead a standing ovation by hundreds of Herrell supporters, who filled every seat and lined the walls of a large room at the museum.

Herrell was narrowly defeated in November by Democrat Gabe Vasquez, who won by about 1,300 votes — less than a percentage point.

The district, which is rooted in southern New Mexico but stretches into Albuquerque’s South Valley and West Side, has been one of the most hotly contested House races in recent elections. It has switched between Republican and Democrat after the last four elections.

Though Vasquez is only a few months into his first term, the 2024 race for the seat is already shaping up to remain competitive.

Last month, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that Vasquez’s seat is one of 37 House seats that are being targeted by Republicans in the 2024 election because the GOP thinks the Democrats are vulnerable.

Similarly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently named Vasquez one of 29 “frontline” members, who the committee said are the most -at-risk of losing their seat in 2024.

McCarthy spoke for about 20 minutes where he touched on a variety of topics, from George Washington’s leadership to former President Donald Trump, who McCarthy said deserved a Noble Peace Prize. He criticized Democratic spending and said it has led to inflation, he targeted several social issues, and he added that Democrats have been weak on foreign policy.

He said his appearance with Herrell was his first campaign event of the 2024 election cycle, showing the importance to Republicans of trying to reclaim the seat.

He also poked fun at himself for needing 15 separate votes to secure his House Speaker role.

“Anybody can win on the first vote,” he said.

Herrell said McCarthy’s appearance and spending by the National Republican committee shows that the party is taking her race seriously. She said rural residents deserve to have at least one conservative member of the state’s congressional delegation. New Mexico currently has an entirely Democratic slate of members of Congress.

Dozens gathered in Las Cruces on Monday to protest as former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell announced her 2024 campaign. (Ryan Boetel/Albuquerque Journal)

“After the last election, it was, what, 1,300-and-something votes was the difference, and we knew that it’s such a small margin in terms of the (Republican) majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, McCarthy told me back in February this would be a priority seat,” Herrell said after the event.

State Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, introduced Herrell, She called on Republicans to increase their support for Herrell and blamed unenthusiastic Republicans for Herrell’s loss.

“Democrats didn’t win that election, Republicans lost that election,” Diamond said. “They’re not going to outwork us” in 2024.

The DCCC issued a press release Monday highlighting some of Herrell’s votes during her congressional term, including her vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election results and her votes against several pieces of legislation signed into law by President Biden during his first two years in office, including an infrastructure law.

“After embracing people like xenophobic Marjorie Taylor Greene and disgraced former President Donald Trump, it’s unsurprising Kevin McCarthy is campaigning alongside MAGA extremist Yvette Herrell,” DCCC spokesman Tommy Garcia said in a statement. “Voters rejected Yvette Herrell in 2022, and they will again in 2024, because she is a proven conspiracy theorist more concerned with partisan politics and protecting wealthy corporations than tackling the real challenges facing everyday New Mexicans.”

Across the street from the museum, protesters lined the streets, holding up signs proclaiming their support for Vasquez and abortion rights, among other topics. One woman took to a megaphone and thanked the “rabble-rousers” for demonstrating while Herrell’s supporters arrived for the event.

“That tells me … that they’re scared,” Herrell said during her remarks.

Last week, Vasquez made public appearances with two members of the president’s Cabinet to talk about New Mexico projects that are going to be funded with an infrastructure law that was a key piece of legislation for the president’s first two years in office. He pointed out that Herrell voted against the spending package.

“My predecessor didn’t vote for the infrastructure bill, partly because she feared that there wouldn’t be oversight over these broadband grants,” Vasquez said at an event announcing $40 million to expand broadband in rural New Mexico. “In New Mexico, we have great contractors, we have transparency, and we’re going to continue to work as a delegation … to make sure that these projects are carried out, and that (the funding gets) to the places that need it the most.”

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