On Monday evening, former Rep. Yvette Herrell launched her long-anticipated rematch campaign against New Mexico Rep. Gabe Vazquez—the Democrat who last year unseated her 50.3-49.6 after an expensive race—at a rally featuring Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Herrell is so far the only notable Republican campaigning for the 2nd Congressional District, a constituency in the southern New Mexico and western Albuquerque area that Biden took 52-46. It will likely be another competitive general election battle.
Herrell, who is a former state representative, first ran for Congress under the old map in 2018, but she unexpectedly lost the campaign to represent the reliably red 2nd District to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small 51-49. Herrell, who reacted to that defeat by making evidence-free allegations of "voting irregularities," quickly announced she’d try again, but she first had to get through what turned into a truly ugly primary against businesswoman Claire Chase.
Both Republicans spent that campaign accusing the other of trying to undermine Donald Trump in 2016, while Herrell’s commercial even employed a narrator who used what Nathan Gonzalez described as a “ditzy tone” to impersonate Chase. Gonzalez, who titled his article, “The campaign attack ad no man could get away with,” also characterized the spot as “one of the most sexist campaign ads in recent memory.” The Associated Press reported that Herrell spread rumors about Chase’s first marriage, but none of that stopped her from convincingly winning the nomination again.
This time Herrell had far more luck against Torres Small, whom she unseated 54-46 as Trump was carrying the district by a larger 55-43 spread. She quickly joined most of her party in voting to overturn Joe Biden’s win hours after the Jan. 6 attack. However, Democratic map makers made defeating the new congresswoman a priority. They crafted new boundary lines that placed a portion of Albuquerque—including its most heavily Latino southwestern quadrant—into her district.
But no one was under any illusions that Herrell would be easy to beat, and what followed was a pricey battle between her and Vazquez, a former member of the Las Cruces City Council. Republicans aired ad after ad accusing Vazquez of wanting to defund the police and being hostile to the area’s oil and gas industry, allegations he pushed back on.
Meanwhile, Democrats went on the offensive by tying Herrell to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, with one ad blasting the incumbent for “voting to protect an extremist who supported executing other members of Congress and denied 9/11." That same spot also emphasized how Herrell had co-sponsored a 2013 anti-abortion bill in the state legislator that read, "Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime."
Altogether the four largest House outside groups spent $9 million for what turned out to be a tight race. According to elections analyst Drew Savicki, Republican Mark Ronchetti beat Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham by a bare 49.7-49.4 margin as he was losing statewide 52-46, but Vazquez still pulled off a 1,350-vote win. Herrell signaled she would try again even before she left office when she opened a new campaign committee for 2024, though she didn’t announce her new effort until Monday.