Vasquez, Herrell at 50-50 split for votes in race for New Mexico's 2nd US House District
Incumbent Yvette Herrell and her challenger Gabe Vasquez each had about half of the votes counted in the race to represent New Mexico's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to initial unofficial results from the New Mexico Secretary of State as of about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Watch parties for both candidates wrapped up the vigil with no clear winner at about midnight.
Dona Ana, Grant and Valencia counties were the only counties not fully reporting votes to the district, according to the Secretary of State's Office at about 12:22 a.m. Wednesday.
Democrat Vasquez challenged Republican Herrell for the seat in New Mexico’s Nov. 8 general election which she held for the past two years after winning the post in 2020.
Herrell, a former real-estate agent and member of the New Mexico Legislature from Alamogordo won the seat from Las Cruces attorney Xochitl Torres Small the last time it was up for election, after Herrell lost to Torres Small in the 2018 midterm.
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Vasquez, who previously served as a Las Cruces city councilor, also worked in the office of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and as executive director of the Las Cruces Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
The most recent poll ahead of the election, conducted by the Albuquerque Journal gave Vasquez a slight lead over Herrell: 47 percent to 45 percent, but showed 8 percent of voters remained undecided.
That same poll gave an advantage to Democrat incumbents Melanie Stansbury at 48 percent of the First Congressional District and Teresa Leger Fernandez at 53 percent for the Third Congressional District.
President Joe Biden endorsed Vasquez in the weeks leading up to the election in a move some worried could alienate him from voters in the district’s rural conservative areas, namely the southeastern corner of the state known for heavy oil and gas development amid the Permian Basin.
The district previously spanned almost the entire southern half of New Mexico, from the Permian in the southeast to communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in the southwest and Bootheel region, but it was recently redistricted to include suburban areas near Albuquerque and exclude areas of Lea County — the southeastern-most county of New Mexico along the border to West Texas.
Hoping to attract votes throughout the diverse, and geographically largest, district in the state, Vasquez presented himself as a moderate Democrat along the campaign trail, contending in an interview with the Carlsbad Current-Argus that a balance could be struck between progressive and conservative beliefs in areas like energy.
New Mexico is the nation’s second-largest producer of oil and gas, which fuels about a third of the state’s budget and is credited for a large portion of an estimated $2.5 billion state budget surplus this year.
Democrats, including Vasquez, supported a “transition” away from fossil fuels due to perceived pollution and economic instability, while Republicans, including Herrell, advocated for expanded domestic fossil fuel production centered in the Permian.
Herrell during her campaign characterized her opponent as an ally of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would follow alleged leftist ideologies like ending fossil fuels or defunding the police.
Aside from energy, Herrell focused her campaign on fears of immigration from Mexico tying migrants to crime along the border, and her opposition to abortion. Vasquez said he supports abortion rights.
Republicans were expected to take control of the U.S. House in the Tuesday election, according to political analyst firm FiveThirtyEight, predicting on election day Republicans would win 230 seats and Democrats would win 205, a gain for the GOP of 17 seats in the chamber.
FiveThirtEight predicted Vasquez had a 22 percent chance of winning the seat which it said was one of 25 that could decide control of the House in the election.
Ahead of Tuesday's election, there were 220 Democrats and 212 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, and three vacancies.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.