Lessons of Election Night, The Otero Red Wall Held, or Did It?


Congratulations to the candidates elected via Tuesday’s New Mexico General Election.

The local Red Wall Held but Civility was the victor of the night overall.  The red wall of Otero County held but has a large crack in it as a result of the election of Congress Member Elect Gabe Vasquez. 

The most closely watched race of the night was the Congressional Race. Democratic House candidate Gabe Vasquez has successfully unseated GOP incumbent Rep. Yvette Herrell. Vasquez won the seat by just 1,224 votes, declaring victory Wednesday afternoon in excess of the .25% percentage that would trigger a recount.

“While we are disappointed by the final results, I am incredibly proud of our team and the work we did serving our district, and I am grateful for the steadfast support of so many who helped us along the way,” Herrell said. “I’d also like to congratulate Gabe Vasquez on his victory.”

Herrell said that the redistricting was “gerrymandered… While this was enough to give them a victory by less than 1 percent in this election, I am confident in our party’s ability to retake this seat next cycle as Joe Biden’s agenda continues to damage our great nation. Stay tuned!”

Vasquez is a first-generation American and previously served as Las Cruces City Councilor.

The 2nd Congressional District campaign was fraught with attack ads on both sides.

The traditionally conservative district was changed in the decennial redistricting which added Albuquerque’s South Valley, which generally leans liberal, to the district.

Both candidates are from southern New Mexico with Herrell calling Alamogordo home and Vasquez living in Las Cruces.

Herrell originally won the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2020 after defeating her rival Xochitl Torres Small who won the seat in 2018.

Herrell was among the elected officials nationwide who voted against certifying the 2020 election that Donald Trump lost, even though it was an election she won.

She represented State House District 51 between 2011 and 2019 prior to her service in the U.S. House of Representatives.

During the race both candidates pivoted to more centrist ideology in their messaging. Ms. Herrell began to distance herself from the Trumpian platform to a more moderate platform and Mr. Vasquez moderated his tone related to energy production of fósil fuels which are core to the New Mexico State budget and the economy of Southern New Mexico.

In the District 51 race as expected John Block was the victor. The HD-51 seat is currently held by Rep. Rachel Black, a Republican from Alamogordo, who barely lost the 2022 Primary to opponent John Block in what was deemed my many a surprisingly dirty race between the two Republican primary challengers.

Block won the House District 51 seat with 63 percent of the vote to Democratic opponent Sharonlee Cummings’ 37 percent of the vote. Republicans with 26 seats in the 70-member chamber posted a slight gain from the current 24 seats held in the state House.

In victory Mr. Block issued a statement declaring he will fight to “drain the swamp of Santa Fe” and then on his blog issues stories attacking the Governor not toning the rhetoric even in victory. As a minority part holding less than 37% of the seats in the round house means collaboration must become the tone or isolation will become the reality. One cannot effectively govern by isolation and divisive rhetoric. One can stand for Republican principles and conservative policies with decorum and professionalism which is the lesson of the midterms.

The “red wave” of “Trumpian” empowerment did not transpire at the state level nor the national level. The US House of Representatives is posed to flip to Republican control but by the smallest majority shredding belief that Trumpian ideology would sweep the 2 halls of Congress with a huge national mandate. At the state level not a single major office was won by a Republican nor did any of the Supreme Court positions flip.

If Republicans are to make inroads at the state or national level then a tone of collaboration with less hostility and moving public policy forward in a positive tone of inclusion will be necessary. Mr Block’s tone of hostility against everyone that differs from him will not win him favors in bringing the bacon home to Otero County for the big community projects that require state assistance. Let’s hope he matures into the position and learns the lessons of collaboration and consensus building.

Locally Amy Barela as expected defeated Stephanie Dubois. Ms Dubois was appointed by Governor last minute to replace Couy Griffin. Republican leadership viewed this appointment as an attack on the sovereignty of Otero County and overreach by the Governor. Political analysts believe this appointment had a down stream negative effect as it reenergized passive conservative and apathetic Republicans to vote locally which drove large numbers of Republican voters out Election Day that otherwise may have stayed home. Ms Barela moderated her tone from past statement during the election, held the high road verses some party leadership and prevailed.

The result of the Governor’s actions was most felt in the race for Magistrate Judge Division One between Warren L Robinson and John R Seacrest III. Early polling showed the race to be very competitive. This was viewed as the first race in many years with candidates between the two major parties within Otero County where a Democrat, Warren L Robinson, was a true competitor to the Republican, candidate John R Secrest III. However last minute random polling show after the governors actions “in Otero County” the final weeks of the election Republican voters were enraged and those on the fence leaning inward to Robinson flipped back to straight party line in their voting.

The race for Division 2 Magistrate Judge between Democrat, Claudia Powell and Republican, Michael R Suggs gave Ms Powell 5860 votes which was impressive given the campaign spent little money operating on a shoestring. Mr Suggs was victorious after winning an expensive primary that required a recount.

Republican Judge Ellen Jessen was elected as the uncontested candidate for District 12 Judge Division 2 after winning a highly competitive primary.

The magistrate judicial races were clean, positive and an example that future candidates for most local offices should mimic as a model of positive campaigning.

All other local races fell as expected to the Republican candidate.

All constitutional amendments and bond issues passed overwhelmingly, one of which offered “free” daycare programs winning at the state level though a mixed bag locally.

At the state level the Governor who was in Otero County last week at a private residence thanking supporters was re-elected.

The lessons of this mid-term election was that civility in most cases was the mood of the voters and the expectations of a huge Red wave of change never materialized that will have downstream impacts on the national presidential race that will unofficially kick off within weeks.

Lesson 2, blue counties, cities and states are getting bluer and red areas redder. The reason the economy. But due to a government action they may change.

The last decade or two had proved a recognition in America where you live determined economic and educational opportunities.

Blue states and counties have become bluer, in part, because younger and more diverse voters are increasingly attracted to urban cities and cultural arts meccas like Telluride or Santa Fe and along the coast.

But why in the last election and this one  did red states like Missouri, Arizona, Indiana, and North Dakota seemingly become even redder and states like California and New Mexico seem to grow bluer during the election?

It's not just immigration.

One reason may be because for the first time in recent memory, the economic story in those states is starting to change. 

Unemployment is historically low across the country, but the gains aren't just concentrated in wealthy, coastal cities. Mid-size cities and rural communities are also witnessing historically low unemployment.

It is debatable as to how much credit  Trump or Biden (or any president) should get for the unemployment rate, the Trump administration and the Republican-held congress during his administration created at least one piece of innovative public policy designed specifically to shift some of the prosperity of the coasts to struggling communities in the middle of America.

Opportunity Zones, a program championed by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and enacted in the recent tax bill, allows capital gains to be invested in communities that have struggled for decades with high poverty rates. Those who leave cities like Erie, Pennsylvania, and make their money on the coasts can now reinvest their capital gains in venture funds designed to support startups in communities wholly neglected by the coastal venture capital community.

Those who write about startups and entrepreneurship know that early-stage money is almost nonexistent outside of a handful of coastal communities.

Venture capital funds created by the Opportunity Zone program are one of the few pieces of public policy in recent memory to seriously try and redirect wealth created on the coasts back into poorer communities, and it came from a very red administration and Congress during the Trump years.

It is easy to boil our polarization down to a few hot-button issues: race, immigration, and gender. And those issues are important. However, it neglects the issue that historically determines elections: the economy.

For decades, the economic challenges facing significant portions of middle America--from the impact of outsourcing to the lack of investment capital--have been neglected. Slowly, that might be changing with shared economic gains and initiatives like Opportunity Zones.

The task for political scientist and economists will be to review the impact on this legislation and see if indeed it made an impact in the 2022 race. Did prosperity and initiatives from this legislation impact the Red verses Blue of New Mexico, Arizona, Georgia or Pennsylvania. Did this have the intended economic and political consequences or did it further evolve certain urban areas to a level of purple from red as younger more diverse individuals move to those areas that typically lean Blue? 

Locally in Alamogordo and Otero Country there is an influx of new comers joining the community witnessed by the housing boom. This housing boom is creating sectors of economic success that has passed Alamogordo by for years. This success is funding new growth and wealth in the housing sector, the redevelopment of New York Avenue as a viable cultural arts and history district and other spin off businesses as those evolve political leadership in Alamogordo will and is evolving as well.

Mayor Susan Payne from a business standpoint has been pro business in working with the city establishment to break barriers to job creation and get out of the way of businesses by streamlining ordinances. The business community would say she has been progressive in her approach to cut red tape and open the doors for business. That will pay off if the County and our state representatives follow her leadership and focus on the core issue of business and community partnerships verses social agendas.

Alamogordo and Otero County when Blue leaning ranked in the top 10 in the nation in education and wealth generation in the 50’s and 60s. Now it is in the bottom. When wealth generation slows and education falters protectionism and conservative seeps into the mindset. That happened in Otero County which now leans Red. Economic policy drives politics.

As Alamogordo evolves with new comers and the economy diversifies the politics of today will change. That change makes the old guard multigenerational political leadership of both parties uncomfortable. Thus the reason for the extremism and some would say disfunction of leadership, in both parties, in the development of candidates that are forward thinking and collaborative. Both parties are engrained in the idea of Alamogordo of the past verses leading a vision or Alamogordo of the future.

Alamogordo needs a political and economic roadmap Vision 2050 and nominate leaders within the parties to carry  that vision forward. 

The old guard felt comfortable that the red wall held within the county. However leadership of both parties were surprised at the crack in the local red wall with election of Gabe Vasquez as the new Congress member. 

Mr Vasquez does not fit the mold of the multigenerational locally bred leader. He is a first generation Latino male of a more youthful age then most of our traditional local candidates. His election represents an alternative to the traditional party created candidates anointed by party political machines.

The machines won’t admit it but his election makes both uncomfortable. Why? Because he is of a different generation, not a part of the multigenerational power structure, locally and closely held. His election may potentially empower thought, dialog and action by those outside the traditional power base of the local party establishment to act, engage and draft future candidates more of his mold and not the mold of the old guard system.

Stay tuned. Politics like economics evolves and Otero County has a reputation of creating a cast of characters that are always if nothing else, entertainment for political fodder.

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Very  astute and precise evaluation of the non-existent red wave (I saw it compared to mid-period spotting). I was disappointed in the local results, but have come to realize that MAGAt extremists will rule Otero Co. So sad. But GABE is the bright spot, and hopefully will change the outlook in the near future. 
You shocked me with the missing opening quote mark from NO-Vette and I had to go back and make sure who was writing the piece. Missing quote marks can be very upsetting! Glad to see that it was a quote from NO-Vette and not from you. 
One of your faithful readers! Shari Adkisson aka NM Creatrix

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