ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The hotly contested congressional race in southern New Mexico has turned into two candidates trying to out-gun each other.
For months, people have been seeing Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and Republican challenger Yvette Herrell using air time to show off their shooting skills, and the dueling TV ads for the Congressional District 2 race are everywhere.
“This is how I unwind,” Torres Small says in one ad before firing a shotgun in the desert. Her latest spot shows her hunting.
“She has a record for protecting our gun rights and standing with law enforcement,” Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace says in an ad for Herrell as the Republican shoots a handgun at a firing range while framing Torres Small as a politician against gun rights.
University of New Mexico Political Science Professor Gabriel Sanchez said they’re likely trying to appeal to the conservative, rural voters down south who are more likely to own a gun. “There’s always been this underlying thread in New Mexico, even among Democrats, that because we have such high gun ownership- almost half of New Mexicans own at least one gun in their household- so I think because of that, there’s always been an appeal toward Second Amendment rights and gun ownership,” Sanchez stated.
He adds that the pandemic has caused a growing concern over public safety and that during a presidential election year, there’s always speculation there could be extreme changes to gun policy. “There’s this growing fear, particularly among the Republican electorate, that they’re going to take away my guns or challenge Second Amendment rights,” Sanchez explained.
In an emailed statement, Herrell’s campaign manager said the following when asked about their gun-themed ads:
Gun rights are a focus in this campaign because in 2018 Xochitl Torres Small ran on protecting our Second Amendment, but then in one of her first votes she supported Nancy Pelosi’s gun control bill even though it was opposed by New Mexico Sheriffs like Democrat Tony Mace. Now Rep. Torres Small is again trying to mislead us with her new gun ads, but voters won’t be fooled this time. Our campaign will continue to hold Rep. Torres Small accountable for her actual record that is out of step with the values of this district.Michael Horanburg, Campaign Manager
This isn’t new terrain for Torres Small. She ran ads back in 2018 in which she’s holding a rifle. Her campaign released the following statement Thursday: “Our ads highlight Rep. Torres Small’s commitment to key elements of New Mexico’s way of life and emphasize how our shared New Mexico values influence her approach in Congress of working with anyone to find solutions and deliver for those she represents.”
Torres Small beat Herrell back in 2018 by less than 4,000 votes.
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