Every vote counts in southern New Mexico's closely watched congressional race. Here's the latest.

·3 min read

LAS CRUCES − President Joe Biden gave his endorsement to congressional candidate Gabe Vasquez, a fellow Democrat, during Biden's visit to Albuquerque Thursday; but Vasquez was knocking on doors in Luna County instead of appearing with the president.

The most recent poll for the Albuquerque Journal showed Vasquez with slightly more support than incumbent U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, with 47 percent to her 45 percent; but with 8 percent still undecided, he appeared to be doing shoe-leather politics in his district Thursday, seeking every vote he could.

Biden's endorsement could also hurt Vasquez in the conservative areas of New Mexico's 2nd congressional district, including the southeastern oil and gas region, where Vasquez can't afford to lose support if he is to oust Herrell. He has presented himself as a moderate Democrat independent of party leadership, while Herrell and Republican organizations have tied him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and portrayed him as an extremist on energy and police reform.

Notably, the Journal poll showed independent voters strongly favoring Herrell, and a stark ethnic divide in support, with Hispanic respondents polling for Vasquez, the son of Mexican immigrants, and Anglo-identified respondents leaning to Herrell, who was born in Ruidoso and has Cherokee heritage.

The district encompasses southern New Mexico which, after redistricting, now represents a swath extending from the southwest up to part of Bernalillo County, including Albuquerque's South Valley, where both candidates are less well known.

While the new district map leans toward Democrats, much of its area remains similar to the previous map, and the 2nd has, with few exceptions, elected Republicans to Congress. Democrat Xochitl Torres Small narrowly won the 2018 contest for the seat, but was defeated for re-election by Herrell in 2020. Most of the district supported Republican Donald Trump in his bid for a second term as president.

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Herrell has outraised and outspent her challenger, per data from Open Secrets, bringing in nearly $4 million and spending $3.3 million compared to Vasquez's haul of $3.2 million and expenditures of $2.85 million.

In a midterm election where Republicans are expected to take majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the seat has been closely watched nationwide and outside groups have been investing. the two campaigns have spent a combined $6.2 million, but outside organizations supporting or opposing both candidates have poured $13.35 million into the contest.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., speaks to news media during the Truth and Courage Rally on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.
U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., speaks to news media during the Truth and Courage Rally on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

Herrell, a former state legislator from Alamogordo, and Vasquez, a former Las Cruces city councilor, met in a single televised debate late in October, where Herrell advocated for tougher law enforcement and immigration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border and affirmed her opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or a risk to the mother's life. She also kept her challenger on the defensive over deleted social media posts and past statements about the fossil fuel industry, on which New Mexico is heavily dependent for revenue, and police reform.

Vasquez, in turn, criticized Herrell's first term in Congress and promised to fight for affordable healthcare, comprehensive immigration reform, fair wages for the working class and abortion rights. He has also been an advocate for an orderly but swift transition to renewable energy sources in the face of climate change.

The decision ultimately will be made not by endorsements or advertisements but by voters. As of Friday morning, over 350,000 New Mexicans had already voted ahead of the Nov. 8 election, 52 percent of whom were registered Democrats, Only 34 percent were registered Republicans, who could turn out in greater numbers on Election Day.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, adammassa@lcsun-news.com or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Every vote counts in Vasquez run to unseat Herrell in Congress