Gabe Vasquez, a former Las Cruces City Councilor and first-term Democrat congressional representative announced Saturday that he would seek to keep his seat in the House of Representatives, setting up a rematch of one of the narrowest elections in recent memory.
The announcement came as part of a multi-town tour starting in Albuquerque and ending in Mesilla at an invite-only rally at the Mesilla Community Center. The race will see Vasquez against the Republican he unseated in 2022, Yvette Herrell, who announced her candidacy in April. If Vasquez won, it’d be the first time a Democrat held the seat for two consecutive terms since Democrat Harold Runnels of Lovington had the district from 1971 to 1980.
“I’ve shown up for my district. And I’ve shown up to the people of Las Cruces and all across this very big, vast district that I love so much,” Vasquez said. “I’m an independent decision maker that champions common sense and bipartisan solutions that don’t leave anybody behind.”
In that 2022 election, Vasquez beat Herrell by 1,350 votes in an election where about 192,000 votes were cast, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State. That was also the first year of the newly drawn Congressional District 2, which now includes parts of Albuquerque but lost much of the southeastern corner of New Mexico. As a result of the redistricting, it became easier for Democrats to win the district, according to an analysis from FiveThirtyEight.
More:New Mexico GOP’s ‘gerrymandering’ case will proceed after Democrat arguments rejected
Still, with the small margin of 1,350 votes, Vasquez only narrowly avoided losing the district that includes communities as disparate as Las Cruces, Carlsbad, Belen, and Deming.
In an interview with the Sun-News, Vasquez emphasized the district’s vastness – including geographic and political leanings – and said he was up for the challenge.
In the southeast, Vasquez said he’d continue working to advance the protections and rights of the area’s many oil workers.
“When it comes to energy, I think we have to have a balance. And, putting New Mexico first means the workers,” Vasquez said.
He noted that he’d recently introduced a bill forcing oil companies to pay into a trust that oil workers could access. Oil workers could use the money to reimburse healthcare costs related to methane or smog exposure while working in the oil fields.
“We often talk about how oil and gas fuels our industry, but it’s the workers that are falling behind and have been falling for too long,” Vasquez said. “And so holding oil and gas accountable is important while understanding that oil and gas is also going to be here for many, many years.”
During his speech on Saturday, Vasquez also said he shows up to smaller, often forgotten potions of his district, such as the town of Jal, while alleging that his likely opponent falls short in that regard.
“The difference between me and my predecessor is I actually show up,” Vasquez said.