US House hopefuls in New Mexico race unload dueling gun ads

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and Republican challenger Yvette Herrell this week released dueling ads — with guns —aimed at appealing to rural voters in their swing, southern New Mexico district.

Torres Small unveiled a commercial where she is shown shooting various types of firearms in the desert while proclaiming, “This is how I unwind.” The ad shows her firing a 12-gauge Weatherby shotgun used to hunt dove and quail, a .270 Winchester rifle for deer hunting, and “her favorite” .44 Magnum revolver.

“I’m Xochitl Torres Small. I haven’t been in Congress that long, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned: Washington doesn’t get us,” the Las Cruces Democrat says before unloading her 12-gauge.

It’s similar to her 2018 ad showing her shooting a rifle in an attempt to appeal to rural, conservative voters.

Herrell released an ad this week with Democratic Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace attacking Torres Small for voting for a gun control measure.

“Two years ago, Xochitl Torres Small promised to protect our Second Amendment rights. But she sold us out,” said Mace, who has clashed with Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham over red flag gun control laws.

The ad also shows Herrell shooting a handgun but at a firing range.

The district, one of the poorest and with one of the highest percentage of Hispanic residents in the country, has been hard with the economic downturn and the pandemic. Yet gun rights are expected to play a factor in this traditionally Republican-leaning, sprawling district that stretches from the lucrative oil region of the Permian Basin to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Torres Small beat Herrell in 2018 by less than 4,000 votes to flip the district to Democrats. She is among the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress. The rematch is expected to draw leaders from both parties and millions in PAC money.

Herrell faced criticism in 2018 for focusing on the conservative, Republican base and ignoring reporters and Hispanic voters. This time, she is vowing to “work across the line” while in the U.S. House. She recently picked up an endorsement from former Democratic U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, who once held Torres Small’s seat.