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Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

Republican Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, faces a tough rematch in November in a U.S. House race that will help determine which party controls the chamber.

The former state lawmaker is seeking to represent New Mexico’s Congressional District 2, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border.

This is her second try for the seat. The 2018 race initially was called in Herrell’s favor, then absentee ballots turned the tide. She was defeated with 49.1 percent of the votes to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small's 50.9 percent.

Earlier this year, Herrell claimed in a Facebook ad that she won the race but Democrats “took it from her.” State and country election officials told the Las Cruces Sun News her claims are false and undermine confidence in the elections.

Now Torres Small is the incumbent, which brings the advantages of greater name recognition and easier fundraising.

Still, the race is considered a toss-up. The district historically leans Republican, particularly in presidential elections. This year’s primary election showed that GOP tilt. The three candidates in the June Republican primary drew a total of 60,141 votes. Running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Torres Small won 47,661 votes.

Republicans need to pick up 20 seats to win control of the U.S. House.

Herrell is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, saying, “I am ready to get to work on Day One and work with President Trump to secure the border, rebuild our economy, and protect our Constitutional rights.”

And on Thursday, the president endorsed her via Twitter, saying, “Yvette Herrell (@Yvette4Congress) is a proven fighter for New Mexico! She strongly supports our Brave Law Enforcement, Life and the Second Amendment. Strong on the Border and Trade, Yvette has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Herrell won this year’s Republican primary amid media reports of nasty attacks by her and her opponents. In 2018, The Associated Press reported Herrell failed to disclose $440,000 in state contracts with her real estate company. Herrell said she had submitted required paperwork and one of her opponents had orchestrated the allegations.

Herrera previously served four terms in the New Mexico House and calls herself a “conservative Republican with a trusted record of results.”

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During her time in the Legislature, Herrell sponsored a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

She voted AGAINST:

  • Background checks for gun sales at gun shows
  • A ban on conversion therapy
  • An increase in the minimum wage
  • A pay raise for legislators
  • A bill prohibiting legislators from becoming lobbyists within two years of leaving office

Herrell voted FOR:

  • Prohibition of public shaming for kids who can’t pay for lunch
  • Amended voter ID requirements 
  • State regulation of oil and gas development
  • Prohibition on use of water without notification of private property it flows through
  • Increased retirement compensation for legislators

Policy stances

  • The intent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was never designed as a path to citizenship

Born in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Herrell is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. After high school, Herrell earned a legal secretary diploma from the ITT Technical Institute School of Business in Boise, Idaho. Since then she has worked as a realtor.

Torres Small, a water attorney, has been endorsed by Joe Biden. In a statement, the Democratic presidential contender said Torres Small understands rural America’s struggles and brings commonsense solutions to Washington, D.C.

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Joaqlin Estus is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. Based in Anchorage, she’s a longtime Alaska journalist.

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