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White Nationalist Conspiracy Promoter Yvette Herrell Looks for NM-02 Rematch with GOP House Leadership Early at Her Side

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Republican Yvette Herrell announced in early April that she would seek a rematch against Rep. Gabe Vasquez for the battleground New Mexico 2nd Congressional District, an expansive district that runs the full length of New Mexico’s border with Mexico. More than a year out from the primary, Herrell has already picked up the endorsement of Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the GOP House leadership, with McCarthy attending her campaign announcement rally in the district. Herrell is hoping she can win back the seat she narrowly lost in the 2022 midterms, but she’s far from a model of moderation, instead a hard-right ally who promoted deadly conspiracy theories throughout her one term in Congress.

A former State House Representative, Herrell suffered a surprise loss to Xochitl Torres Small (D) when Steve Pearce, the Republican who held the seat for nearly the last two decades, retired in 2018. In 2018, Herrell campaigned as an anti-immigrant zealot, opposed to any sort of path to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors, including Dreamers, preferring a mass deportation and family separation regime. She also touted an endorsement from the Gun Owners of America (GOA), a radical gun group that opposes any and all oversight or regulation on firearms. The GOA was founded by the late Larry Pratt, a key figure in the armed far-right militia movement who took the stage at a neo-Nazi and Klan rally. And in a prescient move without evidence, asserted voting irregularities for her loss. 

Herrell was, however, able to seek out a victory in 2020, but as one of her first acts in Congress, she voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election just hours after the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In Congress, Herrell joined the Freedom Caucus led by coup collaborator Rep. Jim Jordan, and joined her Republican colleagues in demagoguing immigrants while obstructing needed reforms.  Herrell also frequently pushed the “open borders” lie and looked to use the border as the backdrop for political stunts. Herrell, however, voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $430 million to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the construction and modernization of land ports of entry. Improvements like “multi-energy portal” screening technology would increase the ability for illicit narcotics seizures at the nation’s borders without significantly impacting the massive amount of legal trade that runs through those same POEs. 

More egregiously, Herrell co-sponsored H.J. Res. 50, which asserted that the white nationalist conspiracy theory that held migrants seeking asylum at the US/Mexico border constitutes a  literal “invasion,” and sought to solidify an individual state’s ability to call up military force to unilaterally expel asylum seekers.    

This language of invasion refers to the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory, a racist fiction that has inspired multiple acts of political violence and domestic terrorism over the last several years. It was chanted in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017, posted online before a man murdered 11 in Pittsburgh in 2018, shared in racist screeds before the murder in Poway and the murder of 23 in El Paso in 2019, believed by those who attacked the Capitol in 2021, and copied by the gunman who killed ten people in Buffalo in May 2022. Dr. Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, draws a direct connection between the rhetoric and the violence. When migrants are described as invaders, that leads to violence,” she said. “Because how else does one stop an invasion?” 

The New Mexico 2nd Congressional District borders the area around El Paso, where a mass murderer attacked customers at a Walmart, believing the racist lie that there was a “Hispanic invasion,” and admitting to police that his goal was to “kill Mexicans.” Nevertheless, Herrell used her position of power in Congress to amplify these deadly racist lies. 

Just a month before the white nationalist terrorist attack in Buffalo, where the mass murder’s racist screed mentioned the so-called “invasion” ten times, Herrell ran Facebook ads peddling the same bigoted conspiracy.  Herrell wrote, “Joe Biden isn’t serious AT ALL about stemming the illegal invasion at our southern border. Our Commander in Chief is working against us – against YOU!” 

For her 2022 reelection bid, Herrell also accepted the support from her colleagues who were leading promoters of the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory. Herrell accepted $10,000 from Rep. Elise Stefanik’s superPAC. Currently the third-ranking House Republican, Stefanik won her leadership position after she embraced election lies and refused to condemn the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Shortly after obtaining the leadership position Stefanik ran great replacement conspiracy theory ads on Facebook, and, when called out, refused to pull down the ads. Stefanik continued to promote the deadly conspiracy through the next year and a half. Even after the racist mass murderer who attacked customers at a Buffalo grocery store, again, Stefanik doubled down on the dangerous language. 

Herrell also accepted thousands of dollars from Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX). This Texas Congressman is a vocal promoter of the white nationalist conspiracy theory. Last September, Babin went on television to falsely claim Democrats’ had a “grand strategy” where they wanted “to replace the American electorate with third-world immigrants that are coming in illegally, many of them COVID positive.” Babin has since persistently amplified the racist language about a “great replacement” and migrant “invasion.” 

Announcing so early and securing early endorsements from House leadership, Herrell is likely trying to forestall an even more wide-eyed extremist forcing her into a competitive primary that would drag her further from the more sensible general electorate she needs to win. Herrell’s adoption of white nationalist conspiracies did not secure the win with more favorable conditions, and doubling down on extremism likely will not do her any favors in what will be a tougher race in 2024. So even if Herrell is unmoved by the deadly downstream consequences of her and her fellow Republicans’ rhetoric, hopefully, the bad politics of extremism will restrain Herrell this cycle. But we won’t hold our breath.