A Democratic House candidate in New Mexico, campaigning as a moderate in a tightly contested race, deleted tweets attacking the oil and gas industry, rationalizing rioting in summer 2020, and comparing the Trump administration to the Ku Klux Klan.
The deleted tweets reviewed by CNN’s KFile on the oil and gas industry could prove problematic for Gabe Vasquez, a former city councilman running against incumbent Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell in New Mexico’s second congressional district. The energy-rich region is part of America’s most active area of oil and gas production.
Vasquez, who has promoted himself in interviews during his campaign as a supporter of the region’s fossil fuel industry calling it “incredibly important,” previously called it “extremely toxic” and “irresponsible” in since-removed comments on social media.
Inside Elections rates the race as a toss up, and it’s one of 19 such races at the moment that could determine control of the House of Representatives this November.
In a statement to CNN on Thursday, Vazquez did not address the deleted tweets but said, “I have been clear all along: I do not believe defunding the police is a path toward a fair criminal justice system. That’s why, as a Las Cruces councilmember, I voted to increase funding for the police by millions and worked directly with our police chief to improve community policing. … I will always put New Mexico’s oil and gas workers first, by supporting responsible fossil fuel development that protects their health, wages, and futures. At the same time, I will hold oil and gas companies accountable who are not paying their fair share and polluting our public lands.”
Vasquez has also promoted himself as a supporter of police in advertisements. But he deleted a tweet rationalizing rioting in cities following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Vasquez has repeatedly said he opposes defunding the police, but suggested he supported such a policy while speaking with a local station during a protest in 2020 – while wearing a face mask and without giving his name. “We need serious police reform in this country,” he said in the clip. “It’s not just about defunding police, it’s about defunding a system that privileges white people over everyone else.”
A campaign spokesperson told Politico that Vasquez did not give his name because he wanted the focus to be on the organizers of the protest.
“The tip of the spear of a white supremacist system ends in state sanctioned, cold-blooded murder of black individuals,” the now-deleted tweet from May 2020 read. “There is so much to undo, to unravel this system & shift power structures to fundamentally change this country. That’s why the cars and buildings are burning.”
Since winning the Democratic nomination for New Mexico’s second congressional district in June, Vasquez has said he supports protecting the oil and gas industry in New Mexico and that renewable energy should not come at the expense of the state’s fossil fuel industry. The district is home to part of the Permian Basin, one of the nation’s most important and active sources of fossil fuel production.
“I think the oil and gas industry is incredibly important to New Mexico,” Vasquez told the local Carlsbad Current-Argus in August. “It’s incredibly important to this district, and I think it supports an economy that’s not only based on fossil fuel extraction, but it’s also based on the small businesses that support this industry.”
But in several since-deleted tweets, Vasquez argued in favor of opposing fracking, the Green New Deal and the “extremely toxic fossil fuel industry.”
“To my fellow Dems, let’s avoid playing to the R’s talking points & playing on their field! It’s OK to oppose fracking, OK to support the Green New Deal, OK to support Medicare for all, OK to talk about progressive immigration reform, OK to stand for what you believe. #StayStrong,” the since-removed tweet from November 2020 reads.
Vasquez also deleted tweets with inflammatory rhetoric on race, including ones that compared the Trump administration to the Ku Klux Klan.
In one deleted tweet from December 2020, Vasquez criticized the criminal justice system and used the hashtag “AmeriKKKa,” invoking the Klan.
“The pardoning of white, wealthy men who should be in prison is a damning reflection of how justice is served in this country. The white & privileged escape justice, while the poor, black, Indigenous & people of color are disproportionately targeted, sentenced & jailed #AmeriKKKa,” he wrote.
In another deleted tweet from August 2020, Vasquez criticized the criminal justice system again after the Justice Department charged the leaders of the “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign with defrauding hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters.
“Pendejos. MAGA racists defrauded, Trump’s army of con men will likely get pardoned, miles of private border wall will fall from erosion, and racial tensions will continue to escalate. No one will take responsibility. Trump’s AmeriKKKa. What a disgusting mess,” Vasquez tweeted.
And on January 6, 2021, Vasquez blamed the Capitol riot on White nationalism in a now-deleted tweet.
“We’re seeing the monster that is white nationalism physically manifesting on the steps of the nation’s capitol [sic]. It has always been there, but it’s been hidden in legislation, in Congressional offices, and in court rooms. We’ve always known it’s there. Today we see its many faces,” Vasquez tweeted at 3:50 p.m.
In other deleted tweets from November 2020, Vasquez attacked a commentator who was against student loan forgiveness, writing, “Oh you mean this American economy suddenly isn’t fair for white man? What will you ever do?”
In another, he attacked electing people of color who did not “think like us,” saying they were “vendidos out there clamoring to be part of the white establishment.” “Vendidos” is a Spanish term that implies someone is a “sell out.”