Representative to New Mexico’s second congressional district, Xochitl Torres Small (NM-D) went head-to-head in a socially-distanced debate with her Republican challenger Yvette Herrell on Sunday afternoon. The televised debate was moderated by KOAT News and the Albuquerque Journal.
Torres Small was confident, thorough, and gave voters insight into her life, family, and New Mexico roots. Early on, she put in context her understanding of New Mexico’s schools by talking about her own NM public school education and her family’s public service in education and the Las Cruces Police Department.
Herrell, on the other hand, was nervous — verbally stumbling, and nervously consulting her notes. She primarily focused on “small business” no matter what the question. This is pretty much what one would expect from Herrell, who likes to talk about freeing up small business from taxes and regulation and failed to report a half a million dollars in real estate business income on state financial disclosures.
So it comes as no surprise that Trump, who has endorsed Herrell, withheld his tax returns from the public, evaded taxes on his holdings for DECADES, and has piles of debt that’s coming due soon as reported in the New York Times bombshell on Sunday.
Hold onto your butts, this is a long one folx! Jump to the issue areas you want to know more about.
On COVID-19 Pandemic
Torres Small responded to the federal handling of the pandemic, focusing on:
- Her work in Congress to improve rural medical care for district two, streamlining funding to reimburse doctors.
- The need for a national strategy on the vaccine rollout to prevent states from competing with one another for access.
Herrell’s main concern with COVID-19 was NOT about the death toll (now over 200K nationally) or about healthcare access, but instead about the money and defending Trump’s pandemic response.
Her first mention was of the financial needs of small businesses, adding that perhaps the $600 federal unemployment aid that expired in July should be extended – as long as it doesn’t cost too much.
The rest was a garbled defense of Trump’s shutting down of travel from China, the only country she mentioned with regards to travel bans – a blatant example of scapegoating and xenophobia.
On NM Schools
Torres Small spoke inclusively about the issues facing public schools across her district. She advocated for full funding of state, local, and tribal schools both during and after the pandemic. Her focus expanded to infrastructure for improving education including increased broadband internet access and ensuring funding for and enrollment in federal school lunch programs.
Herrell’s response was that education was decidedly against state and federal intervention in how public schools operate. She wants to
- Get students back to in-person classes amidst the pandemic — “safely,” however, she didn’t describe what that would mean.
- Allow local districts to decide what’s best for them. This is in keeping with her resistance to federal educational policy, as she’s said in the past that she’s in favor of dismantling the U.S. Department of Education.
On the NM Economy & Unemployment
With regard to the economy, Torres Small highlighted her recent work in Congress and future goals advocating for:
- New Mexico industries to receive Paycheck Protection Program funds under the CARES Act.
- Expanded internet access especially now that businesses are working remotely.
Herrell again went off the rails in her response to the economy, jumping from a call for expanded tax cuts for small businesses to abortion clinics being open while houses of worship are not — a shoehorning of her anti-abortion rhetoric into a question about unemployment.
On George Floyd & Law Enforcement
Torres Small is in favor of giving law enforcement and first responders access to more tools to do their jobs such as:
- Mental health and addiction recovery resources.
- Ways to address systemic racism, mentioning her support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act: banning chokeholds, requiring body cameras, and improving accountability/reporting of use of force.
With federal law enforcement deployed to Bernalillo County for Operation Legend, she warned that she was not given specifics about from where those forces were coming — and that there is a need for greater transparency.
Herrell falsely claimed that law enforcement in the district is underfunded. Despite her continued calls for local governments to determine what’s best for them on other fronts, Herrell had no objections to federal law enforcement mobilization to our cities.
- She painted protestors with a broad brush calling them “anarchists.”
- She made no mention of civil liberties, racial justice, and safety of people – instead that police should protect against violence to PROPERTY.
On the Border and Immigration
Torres Small came out in favor of a more comprehensive border and immigration policy:
- Improved technology to scan cars at ports of entry to guard against drug trafficking.
- Targeted resources/interventions for the needs of specific stretches of the border.
- A path to citizenship for DACA recipients/Dreamers and immigrant military personnel.
Herrell’s view of immigration is in lock-step with conservatives, a combination of praising Trump for the border wall and spreading misinformation about undocumented immigrants. She
- Falsely claimed that the border wall project is further along than it is.
- Falsely claimed that the border wall is effective in keeping out migrants and asylum seekers.
- Made no mention of the border wall’s estimated $25 billion cost, despite claiming to be budget and spending conscious.
- Is against sanctuary cities receiving federal funding, and falsely claimed they protect those with “criminal backgrounds.”
Guns & Second Amendment
Torres Small came out in favor of responsible gun ownership noting that she is for “common sense” solutions to gun violence including
- Closing loopholes on background checks for gun purchases, citing that 87% of New Mexicans are in favor of such measures as well as the majority of gun owners.
- Not being overly burdensome on the waiting period to accommodate hunting seasons.
Herrell unsurprisingly went full Rambo with her support of
- Zero limits to the 2nd amendment.
- No limits on military-style weapons.
- No gun safety or ownership regulation.
She touted her endorsements by the NRA (which has faced a “death spiral” of corruption and mismanagement).
Torres Small outlined her support for improved healthcare access to New Mexicans with specifics.
- Supporting Medicaid funding especially for children.
- Reducing the costs of prescription drugs.
- Expanding access to doctors, nurses, and hospitals in rural areas.
Herrell gave the usual lines of conservatives when it comes to healthcare. She’s not a fan of public options for healthcare instead touting:
- A free market, consumer choice approach to healthcare—which really means no regulation of the health insurance industry. She claims this approach will make prices more competitive and coverage more transparent, but we know that historically, that hasn’t been the case.
- Support of protection for pre-existing conditions, despite being on record for wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act which includes protections for pre-existing conditions.
Energy & Environment
Torres Small presented a balanced approach to the double concerns of New Mexico’s energy industry/natural resources and environmental protections.
- Highlighting the necessity of the oil and natural gas industry to the economy.
Voting in favor of the Great American Outdoors act for investment in public lands for tourism and the economy.
- Though not mentioned in the debate, Torres Small is also a proponent protecting the Chaco Canyon archaeological site from energy development.
Herrell, on the other hand, presented a sledgehammer approach to the environment with regard to natural resources:
- Deregulate – with no mention of protections for land, water, and endangered species. (The spotted owl be damned.)
No surprise, Torres Small believes that the Senate should wait until after the presidential inauguration to take nominations and vote on the new supreme court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg who recently passed. During the debate, she noted that the Senate has not moved on more COVID-19 economic stimulus or other legislation in months and yet wants to rush through the SCOTUS approval process.
Herrell of course wants the Senate to approve Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, who has all of three years experience on the bench. It’s in keeping with her motivation to ban abortion where a new conservative justice would potentially recriminalize abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade.
It was a very full hour of debate between democratic incumbent Torres Small and her republican challenger Herrell. The race is one the top-watched congressional races in the country as the candidates are within a couple of percentage points in recent polls, with Torres Small leading.
Join us back here on the blog and on Twitter for more debate coverage.
Xochitl Torres Small, Yvette Herrell face off in first TV debate – KOAT – Full Video and Transcript