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New Mexico’s Congressional District 2 is, geographically, one of the biggest districts in the country.
These days, the district looms very large in the minds of the country’s Democratic and Republican leaders.
The district was created in 1969 and long considered a Republican stronghold, with the seat held by the GOP for 40 years of its existence.
The last four two-year terms, however, the seat has been held by a different party.
Those Representatives were Republican Steve Pearce, Democrat Xotchil Torres Small, Republican Yvette Herrell and the current Congressman, Democrat Gabe Vasquez.
With the party margins so close in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, every district in the nation becomes a battleground, especially the swing districts, which CD2 has now become.
In re-districting, required following a census, the Democrat-led New Mexico legislature created what people thought would be a less-friendly district to the GOP.
Vasquez’s 2022 victory of 1,350 votes in the re-drawn district, however, was even slimmer than Torres Small’s 3,722 in 2018. When Herrell won in between, in 2020, she defeated Torres Small by almost 20,000 votes.
In a span of five days last week, two prominent national party figures came to Las Cruces with their candidate of choice.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who ran in the Democratic Presidential primary in 2020, came to Deming and New Mexico State University April 5, with Vasquez. They were talking primarily transportation issues, but another Buttigieg message was clear: “I’m a big name in politics, I’m a Democrat, and I’m backing Gabe Vasquez.”
Then, on April 10, U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy came to Las Cruces to join Herrell as she announced she’s seeking to regain her seat.
McCarthy said a lot of things that day, but the gist could be boiled to this: “I’m a big name in politics, I’m a Republican, and I’m backing Yvette Herrell.”
Because Vasquez is a very liberal Democrat, and Herrell is a very conservative Republican, few voters will be undecided.
Barring a surprise, that distinction in candidates means the election will come down to voter turnout, and both parties will do everything they can to get their people to the ballots.
In this district, turnout increases significantly during a Presidential election year. In the five Presidential election cycles since 2004, turnout has increased over the preceding non-Presidential year by 53, 48, 32, 54 and 32 percent. The only Democratic CD2 win in that stretch came in 2008, when Harry Teague of Hobbs beat Ed Tinsley.
Buckle up, New Mexicans. We’re still more than 18 months away from November 2024, so expect to see a lot more volleying in this race. Probably some more big names and, assuredly, lots of bitter and ugly radio, TV and direct mail ads.