By Michael McDevitt
LAS CRUCES – Former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez defeated rural physician Darshan Patel for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell in New Mexico’s second congressional district.
Vasquez, a progressive outdoorsman, conservationist and first-generation American, served one term on the council in Las Cruces, the largest city in a sprawling district that includes all of southern New Mexico, including a 180-mile border with Mexico. Vasquez won a decisive victory in the race against Patel.
The GOP in 2020 flipped the district with the election of Herrell, a firm defender of former President Donald Trump. Herrell lost to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in 2018 but won a rematch two years later. Herrell, of Alamogordo, ran unopposed in the 2022 primary.
While CD2 has traditionally been a red seat, it’s been marked as a likelier Democratic district by the Cook Political Report following redistricting last year. Under New Mexico’s redrawn district map, which follows the 2020 U.S. Census, the district dominates the southwestern corner of the state and is expected to lean slightly Democratic: 53 percent to 47 percent Republican, with a population of 705,846 spanning the southern border and reaching up into part of Albuquerque.
Supporters chanted “Gabe, Gabe, Gabe” and “Si Se Puede” as Vasquez celebrated his victory and spoke about his campaign promises at an election results watch party Tuesday night at the Amador LIVE in Las Cruces, joined by family, former city council colleagues and other high-profile local Democratic elected officials.
“I stand here as a different kind of candidate,” Vasquez told supporters. “I don’t come from money. I don’t come from a political family. I am not the typical politician that we see over and over again, that does the same old things, using their office to make themselves wealthy and to drive people apart instead of together.”
Vasquez spoke about his humble roots, such as how his first jobs included working in a grocery store and selling vacuum cleaners and how his family immigrated from Mexico.
“As a child of immigrants, standing here today is proof that the American dream is not dead,” Vasquez said. “It’s still alive, and it’s our responsibility to protect it.”
Vasquez thanked Patel for his passionate campaign before he set his sights on Herrell and his aim of turning a traditionally red seat blue.
“The truth is that the American dream is not slipping away. It is being taken away; it is being ripped away, by people in Congress like Yvette Herrell — who instead of leading us all in service of protecting that dream, has chosen to serve her party and a disgraced president instead,” Vasquez said.
Herrell issued a statement Tuesday night.
“I’m so glad the Republican voters of our district want to entrust me with a second term in Congress, but of course, I serve everybody regardless of party back home in New Mexico,” she said. “That’s why I’m fighting to lower gas prices, secure the border, stop violent crime, and support our families. My out-of-touch opponent is already doubling down on President Biden’s failed policies, and I look forward to working hard to earn another term.”
Patel told the Sun-News he congratulated Vasquez on his victory. Going into the general election, Patel said Vasquez should “continue to be open to all voices in our party.”
Vasquez went on to highlight the issues he’ll be advocating for on the campaign trail, such as a transition to clean energy that keeps oil and gas workers whole, abortion rights, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and affordable healthcare and childcare.
Following his speech, Vasquez told the Sun-News the economy is shaping up to be the biggest issue this election season.
“We’re seeing our everyday residents paying outrageous prices at the pump. We absolutely need to reverse the gross wealth inequality that exists in this country,” Vasquez said. “Our economic system is broken, and so trickle down economics is not something that has worked for New Mexicans, and that’s something I plan to talk about on the campaign.”
Vasquez said he supports raising the federal minimum wage, higher taxes for the wealthy and investment in infrastructure.