By Michael McDevitt, Las Cruces Sun News
LAS CRUCES — Outgoing Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez announced Wednesday he’s running as a Democratic candidate for Congress in New Mexico’s Second District.
Vasquez, a progressive outdoorsman, conservationist and first-generation American, is currently finishing his first term on the Las Cruces City Council in District 3.
If he wins the Democratic primary, he’ll likely square off against Republican Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who’s currently serving her first term, in 2022. Herrell beat former Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in 2020.
“Seeing the impacts to our democracy and to our communities in southern New Mexico, and really across the country, from this division that Republicans have created at the national level and how it’s trickling down … I decided to step up,” Vasquez told the Sun-News.
On his campaign website, Vasquez labels himself as “a champion for economic justice, equal pay for equal work, affordable housing and high-quality healthcare for all.”
While on the city council, Vasquez advocated for a new city skatepark and improvements to the existing park, chaired the committee studying the redevelopment of the El Paseo-Solano corridor and advocated for developing the Villa Mora Dam area in his district. He also pushed for cannabis legalization, liquor license reform and payday loan reform.
In April, Vasquez announced he wouldn’t seek a second council term.
“We’ve got to give our families a fighting chance for a future,” Vasquez said in a news release announcing his candidacy. “Republicans are helping the rich become richer, while hard-working New Mexicans fight for scraps. Our economy is more successful when it is more fair … I will be unapologetic in fighting for the interests of working families — they are the heart of this district.”
Vasquez, 37, is running on a platform focused on immigration reform, voting access, raising working class wages, raising taxes on the wealthy, investing in social services, infrastructure and education and responding to the threats posed by climate change.
“Climate change is already ravaging communities across the country and in New Mexico,” Vasquez said. “We saw just recently in La Union with the catastrophic floods that we experienced, and Representative Herrell was nowhere to be seen.”
In the release, Vasquez touted some of his previous roles. He’s worked as an aide for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., as well as been executive director of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, community outreach director for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and business editor of the Las Cruces Bulletin.
Vasquez has lived in Las Cruces since 2002, according to the release, but he first moved to the U.S. when he was 9 and said he has family on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. He currently serves on the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division Advisory Board and on the board of directors for the Outdoor Alliance.
“Gabe is running for Congress to defend hard-working families that have been systematically excluded, struggling with job and educational opportunities, health care costs, the COVID-19 pandemic and childcare,” the release states. “New Mexican families need a leader who will stand up for them now. That leader is Gabe Vasquez.”
Congressional District 2 encapsulates all of southern New Mexico, including Las Cruces, Roswell, Silver City, Alamogordo, Los Lunas, Hobbs and the oil-producing Permian Basin. It is the fifth largest district in the nation by land area. It has predominantly been held by Republicans, though the redistricting process is still underway and could change the dynamics of the district.
Vasquez, however, told the Sun-News the redistricting process didn’t factor into his decision to run.
“If the lines didn’t change tomorrow, I would still be running,” Vasquez said.