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January 31, 2023    Political Note #536 Gabe Vasquez NM 02

2024                           General Election

If we are going to regain a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, we should have already begun.  And we have (See Len’s Political Note #538 Adam Frisch CO 03).  On the whole, this is a time for defense.  We know which Democrats won close races and can be expected to face serious opposition in 2024.  We begin protecting the endangered.

If we measure vulnerability by how close the 2022 win was, Gabe Vasquez is the most endangered Democrat in the House of Representatives.  He defeated the incumbent, Yvette Herrell, by 1,350 votes – the narrowest margin of any Democratic winner.

In the past few election years, since Republican Steve Pearce chose not to run for reelection, close races have been characteristic of this district. In its current form, NM 02 covers the entire southern part of New Mexico and half the western part of the state – as far north as half of Albuquerque.

In 2018, the Republican incumbent Steve Pearce did not run for reelection.  Democratic attorney and former field rep for Senator Tom Udall, Xochitl Torres Small, defeated the Republican State Representative Yvette Herrell by 3,722 votes.

In 2020, Republican Realtor and former State Rep Yvette Herrell defeated the Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small by 19,855 votes.

And, of course, as noted above:

In 2022, Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez defeated incumbent Yvette Herrell by 1,350 votes.

Redistricting had assisted Gabe Vasquez in his 2022 victory.  The Blue Wave of 2018 had assisted Xochitl Torres Small.  Notwithstanding the Democratic dominance of New Mexico, the redistricting could be negated. The New Mexico Supreme Court, responding to a suit by the New Mexico Republican Party, is considering whether it has the authority to consider a political gerrymander under New Mexico’s constitution.  For the first time, New Mexico had an Independent Redistricting Commission.  The legislature considered three maps submitted to by the Commission and then chose its own.  The Republicans argue that the legislature had “cracked” (unfairly divided) Republican voters in Southeast New Mexico.

If the New Mexico Supreme Court decides for the Republicans, it will still have to consider whether the Republican argument about “cracking” is accurate and that the legislature, in creating districts for 2022, had acted in a way that violated the state’s constitution.  However the lawsuits work their way out, Gabe Vasquez, will find getting reelected a challenge.

Gabe Vasquez was born in Texas and raised in Mexico.  He graduated from New Mexico State University in 2008, majoring in English and journalism.  He lived the journalism part, serving as editor-in-chief of the New Mexico State student run newspaper.  After graduation, for three years, he was the business editor for the Las Cruces Bulletin.  He spent a year as the communication director for the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and two years as a field director for Senator Martin Heinrich.  Gabe Vasquez spent two years in Washington with First Focus, primarily an advocacy organization for children.

Worthy as First Focus was, he found work on the policy issue he loves most.  Gabe Vasquez returned to New Mexico in 2018 to be Deputy Director of the New Mexico chapter of the Wilderness Society. He went on to be Deputy Director for Federal Lands for the Western Conservation Foundation.  Elected to the Las Cruces City Council, he sought to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to “address a severe youth unemployment problem, address racial and social inequities, and help our nation reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

In those roles, he combined an understanding of business, his commitment to addressing racial and other inequities, and his belief in our central need to address the climate crisis.  He helped found Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project in 2017 which provides “communities of color with sustainable opportunities for community engagement, access and education around public lands and waters…”.   He was instrumental in the creation of the Outdoor Equity Fund which began to award grants in 2020.  The goal was to award grants toward ensuring that “access to the outdoors should be low-cost and ubiquitous for all New Mexicans.”  While these projects created jobs and new businesses, his business oriented ambition is best express by the Outdoor Equity Fund’s Incubator and Accelerator … awarding grants to support “early stage outdoor businesses…..”

Gabe Vasquez has been clear.  Conservation goals are not projects for the elite.  Everyone should benefit from projects that improve the outdoors.  It is not just the wealthy who can create businesses that are part of New Mexico’s and America’s effective dealing with the climate crisis. Nor should it be the children of the elite who are necessarily ‘the next generation of conservation leaders.”

Gabe Vasquez will be facing a contest in 2024 in a district he won extremely narrowly.  If he is to be reelected, he needs to start building a campaign fund now.  In 2022, he was pretty good at it.  He raised and spent $3.6 million to Yvette Herrell’s $4.3 million.  He will need more for 2024.  Start helping Gabe Vasquez now.

Upcoming elections

February 21 and April 4

Virginia Fourth Congressional District Special Election on February 21

Jennifer McClellan is running to replace the only current vacancy in the US Congress – Virginia’s Four Congressional District. A state senator representing the 9th Senate district, she is the child of a civil rights activist and a university professor. She ran Terry’s McAuliffe’s transition team when he was elected governor in 2013, is vice chair of the Virginia Democratic Party and of the legislature’s Black Caucus.  She is the favorite to defeat Pastor and Navy veteran Leon Benjamin, Sr.   See Len’s Political Note #527.

New Hampshire Special Election on February 21

House District 8, Rochester Ward 4

Incumbent Chuck Grassie is running because of a rarity.  In November, he and former mayor Republican David Walker tied.  Because New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is so large, you would not expect that a single seat would matter much.  This election in February matters.  Republicans have a narrow majority – 201-198.  Make it a little narrower (201-199) by helping to reelect Chuck Grassie.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Multiparty Primary on February 21 followed by a General Election on April 4

Janet Protasiewicz is running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Her win in the February 21st primary and the April 4th General Election would flip the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 4-3 Republican to 4-3 Democrat with enormous implications for issues such as abortion and redistricting.  This is an open seat because a Republican Justice retired. Because crucial issues like abortion and redistricting are up for grabs in Wisconsin, some of said that this will be the most important election in 2023.  The election is in the spring rather than November because Wisconsin strives to limit partisanship in judicial elections. See Len’s Political Note #528

Wisconsin Primary on February 21 followed by a Special Election on April 4

Jody Habush Sinykin is running in the special election for Wisconsin’s State Senate District 08.  She is also running to prevent Republicans from having two thirds of the seats in the Wisconsin State Senate.  If the current State Senator for the District had not retired, Republicans would have 22 of the 33 State Senate seats now. Some Republicans are arguing they can use impeachment as a tool to oust Democratic incumbents. See Len’s Political Note #529