In the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, the race was nearly 50-50, but Wednesday afternoon Vasquez declared himself the winner.
“Make no mistake about it,” Vasquez said in his victory statement. “There’s nothing that happens in Washington that New Mexico can’t do better. 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, because public service is a sacred responsibility that I will never take for granted.”
Democratic nominee Gabe Vasquez, a former Las Cruces city councilor, ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat on pledges to seek more affordable access to health care, raise the federal minimum wage and protect abortion rights. Herrell highlighted concerns about border enforcement and her unfettered support for the oil and natural gas industry in a major energy production zone.
The newly redrawn district has a majority-Hispanic population and stretches from the U.S. border with Mexico across desert oilfields of the Permian Basin and portions of Albuquerque. Both campaigns were closely tracking vote tallies.
“This race remains very close and we are closely monitoring the counting of all remaining ballots,” said Vasquez campaign spokesman Robert Phillips in an email.
Democrats won a new mandate in the midterms with the reelection of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as New Mexico grapples with whiplash from the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of public health orders that shut down classroom learning for a year in many public schools.
On election night, Lujan Grisham hinted at her priorities for a second term that begins in January with the start of a 60-day legislative session. State government income and spending have surged in the midst of record-setting oil production in the southeastern corner of the state.
“New Mexico said yes to more health care for families, better education for kids, more economic freedom … for workers and more for students,” Lujan Grisham said. “Tonight New Mexicans said we are and will continue to be a state that protects reproductive rights and basic human rights of every single member of the LGBTQ” community.
Lujan Grisham tethered her reelection campaign closely to abortion access as a cornerstone of women’s rights. Democratic state Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil said that could be a new focus of legislation next year.
“I think that there are some ideas being thrown around as to how we can further protect women’s right to health care,” she told KANW radio. “I think it’s important to let the female citizens of the state know that their right to choice should and can be preserved.”
New Mexico has taken on an outsized role in providing access to abortion for residents of neighboring states. Operators of the Mississippi clinic at the center of the court battle that overturned Roe v. Wade have opened a clinic in southern New Mexico.
In campaign debates, Lujan Grisham suggested more may need to be done to ensure recently enacted gun control laws are enforced by policing agencies, and she has reaffirmed her commitment to addressing climate change and encouraging investments in alternative fuels such as hydrogen.
Democrats prevailed in other prominent statewide races.
Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver defeated Republican nominee Audrey Trujillo, who allied her campaign with an America First coalition that seeks large-scale changes to elections administration.
Albuquerque-based Democratic District Attorney Raúl Torrez won an open race for attorney general, beating Republican nominee Jeremy Gay of Gallup. And Democratic Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard won a second term at the helm of the State Land Office that oversees lucrative oil, mineral and renewable energy leases on public land.