Gabe Vasquez and Yvette Herrell during the Oct. 21 debate. (Screenshot via KOB-TV)
Republican incumbent Rep. Yvette Herrell and Democratic challenger Gabe Vasquez came together to debate issues concerning voters on Friday on KOB TV in the tightest of the state’s three Congressional races.
Following redistricting, the 2nd Congressional District includes parts of Albuquerque as well as the whole of the border with Mexico and many communities that rely on ranching and fossil fuels, and have usually leaned Republican.
But although the redrawn lines could favor a Democratic candidate, the polling website FiveThirtyEight shows Herrell with a slightly higher chance of winning the seat.
The debate covered policing, border policy, abortion and energy, and both candidates seemed to soften previous stances on policy issues.
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In recent weeks, CNN and other outlets reported that Vasquez had deleted tweets expressing strong views on racial justice and policing, and had told a TV reporter that he supported, “defunding a system that privileges white people”.
Not surprisingly, in the debate Herrell brought this up
“Gabe Vasquez you are on TV talking about dis-funding, defunding the police, dismantling the police, defunding the system.”
Vasquez said he had voted for budgets including police funding in Las Cruces.
“I don’t support the looting,” he said. “I don’t support defunding the police. I don’t support any of the riots that have happened in this country. But those are reactions to things that are happening in this country that we should be able to work on.”
He also accused the incumbent of changing her position on abortion. When asked about the subject, Herrell said, “Everybody knows that I am pro-life with the exception of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.”
Vasquez said this contradicted her voting record. Herrell was among 166 co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act earlier this year, which would effectively prohibit all abortion. Although she has always opposed abortion, she seemed to try to play down the impact of the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
“It did not change any of the New Mexico’s abortion laws ,and it didn’t deny access to abortion for any woman,” she said.
The two also spoke about fossil fuels, with Herrell issuing a call to “unleash American energy” and Vasquez urging support for renewables while keeping the industry’s employees working. And they discussed the border, with Herrell calling the border open, and seeking tougher measures to prevent trafficking. Vasquez called for immigration reform and said immigrants will make the country better.
Herrell also defended her congressional vote against certifying the 2020 election in some other states.
“As a member of Congress, I have a duty to take concerns that have risen to the congressional level in terms of not certifying the election,” she said.
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