Democrats, GOP split key House border districts in Texas, New Mexico

Border Report

Republicans flip southern New Mexico seat and fend off Democratic challenge in West Texas

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Two border congressional districts will have new, Republican representatives in Washington, D.C., come next January.

Yvette Herrell on Tuesday unseated U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., in a contest for southern New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. The former state representative managed to flip the seat for the Republicans.

And former Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Tony Gonzales defeated Gina Ortiz Jones, herself a former Air Force captain, in a contest to fill the West Texas seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas.

Both districts border Texas’ El Paso-based 16th Congressional District, where incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar fended off a challenge by Republican Irene Armendariz-Jackson by a wide margin.

The results leave a huge swath of the U.S.-Mexico border, from Eagle Pass, Texas to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, with two members of Congress who favor border wall construction and strict immigration enforcement, and one who’s against unnecessary new wall and favors immigration reform.

Early on Wednesday, winners and vanquished released pent-up emotions, as they publicly thanked supporters.

“You can count on me that I’m going to show up,” Gonzales said. “This district deserves a congressman that is going to show up regardless of size, regardless if you voted for me or not.”

Tony Gonzales speaks to supporters after Texas House District 23 called in his favor

Gonzales appeared emotional as he reflected on the competitiveness of the campaign against Jones, whom political observers believed stood a good chance of flipping the district for the Democrats but did not.

“I’m running to bring people together. Campaigning is about division – I get that, I understand that. But governing is about uniting people and I look forward to be the next representative of District 23,” he told supporters.

Later in the day, he thanked Jones for her service in government and the military and wished her well. His campaign told Border Report the congressman-elect would be in touch with his Far East El Paso constituents and attentive to trade issues so important to the area.

Several hundred miles to the west, Torres Small recorded a video statement with the New Mexico desert as background.

“I am so deeply grateful to have served this district — to have served my home — for the last two years,” she said.

Torres Small added that she learned a lot from the people she represented as well as how to work with lawmakers from the other side of the political aisle.

“Every moment has a calling. Sometimes that calling is just to stand up and give it everything you got,” she said.

Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce said he was satisfied that Herrell would pursue a conservative agenda that represents the values of families in the state.

“She will push hard to improve the lives of constituents. Herrell will create jobs, protect our oil and gas industry, strengthen our economy, help keep our border secure and stand strong with Republicans in Capitol Hill,” said Pearce, who represented the district before running for governor. Pearce lost to Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, D-NM.

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