Gabe Vasquez had a lead of about 1,015 votes in the race for New Mexico’s Second Congressional District the day after the Nov. 8 general election, with he and incumbent Yvette Herrell each garnering about half the vote.
All of the district’s 650 voter precincts were reporting Wednesday morning, according to records from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office. The District spans 15 counties in New Mexico and includes rural areas like Eddy and Lea counties to the southeast, and the urban areas of Dona Ana and Bernalillo counties.
The race saw about 191,500 votes cast, with Democrat Vasquez leading at 96,253 votes to Republican Herrell’s 95,238.
Vasquez campaign spokesman Robert Phillips said the candidate had not yet declared victory as votes were still being counted.
“This race remains very close and we are closely monitoring the counting of all remaining ballots,” Phillips said. “We look forward to updated results from the Secretary of State.
The Herrell campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alex Curtas, spokesman for the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office said about 1,800 absentee ballots in Bernalillo County, which typically leans Democratic, had yet to be counted as of about 9 a.m. Wednesday.
He said there were also pockets of provisional ballots and hand-counted tallies ongoing throughout the state.
The margin, although slight, appeared too wide for an automatic recount, Curtas said, which is triggered when candidates are within one quarter of one percent.
If Vasquez’s lead holds, Curtas said he would be declared the victor in the race.
“There are certainly some provisional ballots, had tallied votes and absentees,” he said. “There are going to be handfuls throughout the state. The counting never completes on election night. That’s why we pray for wide margins. Administratively, it makes things a lot easier.”
Following the final count, any candidate can arrange and pay for their own recount, according to New Mexico voter statutes, and can target that recount to specific precincts in question.
Costs can range widely depending on what is being recounted, Curtas said.
“Recounts cost a lot of money,” he said.
A candidate can also pursue litigation if there are candidate concerns about how the votes are counted.
“There’s also the possibility of lawsuits, just because of the high-profile nature of this election,” Curtas said. “We don’t have any indication that there was any problem with vote counting.”
National TV news networks on election night and the day after higher vote counts that the Secretary of State’s Office, giving Vasquez a wider margin – about 4 percent.
Curtas said he was unsure of where that data was coming from, urging New Mexicans to follow the Office’s running totals online as the “site of record.”
“We’re very confident in the accuracy of the results,” he said. “It’s very rare that recounts end up flipping races in New Mexico. It’s a testament to the accuracy of the initial vote counts.”
Vasquez challenged Republican Herrell for the seat in New Mexico’s Nov. 8 general election which she held for the past two years after winning the post in 2020.
Herrell, a former real-estate agent and member of the New Mexico Legislature from Alamogordo won the seat from Las Cruces attorney Xochitl Torres Small the last time it was up for election, after Herrell lost to Torres Small in the 2018 midterm.
Vasquez, who previously served as a Las Cruces city councilor, also worked in the office of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and as executive director of the Las Cruces Hispano Chamber of Commerce.
President Joe Biden endorsed Vasquez in the weeks leading up to the election in a move some worried could alienate him from voters in the district’s rural conservative areas, namely the southeastern corner of the state known for heavy oil and gas development amid the Permian Basin.
The district previously spanned almost the entire southern half of New Mexico, from the Permian in the southeast to communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in the southwest and Bootheel region, but it was recently redistricted to include suburban areas near Albuquerque and exclude areas of Lea County — the southeastern-most county of New Mexico along the border to West Texas.
Hoping to attract votes throughout the diverse, and geographically largest, district in the state, Vasquez presented himself as a moderate Democrat along the campaign trail, contending in an interview with the Carlsbad Current-Argus that a balance could be struck between progressive and conservative beliefs in areas like energy.
New Mexico is the nation’s second-largest producer of oil and gas, which fuels about a third of the state’s budget and is credited for a large portion of an estimated $2.5 billion state budget surplus this year.
Democrats, including Vasquez, supported a “transition” away from fossil fuels due to perceived pollution and economic instability, while Republicans, including Herrell, advocated for expanded domestic fossil fuel production centered in the Permian.
Herrell during her campaign characterized her opponent as an ally of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would follow alleged leftist ideologies like ending fossil fuels or defunding the police.
Aside from energy, Herrell focused her campaign on fears of immigration from Mexico tying migrants to crime along the border, and her opposition to abortion. Vasquez said he supports abortion rights.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.