RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A Republican seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in a crucial House seat in New Mexico picked up an endorsement Tuesday from a former Democratic congressman.
Former U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, who once held Torres Small’s seat, said in a statement that he is backing Yvette Herrell in November. Teague said Herrell appreciates the impact the energy industry has on the state and will reach across party lines.
“Ultimately, it is time to vote for candidates that will protect and lead New Mexico no matter what their party tells them to do,” Teague said. “We must vote for candidates that have the interests of New Mexicans first, who will stand up to their party and put their personal ambitions aside for the best interests of New Mexico.”
Teague held the southern New Mexico seat 2009 until 2011 and was the first Democrat to win it in nearly 30 years. He was ousted after voting for a bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gasses.
Herrell said the endorsement shows her campaign is building bridges across party lines.
In a statement, Torres Small said Teague spent one term working hard to represent the people of southern New Mexico but did not address Teague’s support of her opponent.
“I appreciate his service and wish him well,” Torres Small said.
Torres Small beat Herrell in 2018 by less than 4,000 votes and issues around oil and natural gas are expected to play central roles in this closely watched U.S. House rematch. The district sits in the part of the Permian Basin drilling area.
It’s one of the nation’s richest and most prolific oil and natural gas regions and helps New Mexico fund its public education system.
Since taking office, Torres Small has clashed with more liberal Democrats in Congress who have been pushing for the so-called New Green Deal or proposals to ban fracking.
But Herrell said Torres Small’s support for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes her support of oil and gas questionable.
The New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, which represents petroleum producers, said the Las Cruces Democrat’s record show she understands the role that the oil and gas industry plays in the state.
“Throughout her first term in Congress, she has been a strong advocate for our state’s energy interests and responsible production and has stood up to those in her party who want to completely ban fracking,” said Ryan Flynn, the association’s executive director.
This story corrects a previous version to attribute statements from New Mexico Oil & Gas Association to executive director Ryan Flynn.