Yvette Herrell, a Republican former state legislator who had tied herself closely to President Trump, early Wednesday defeated Representative Xochitl Torres Small, a first-term Democrat from New Mexico, in one of the most closely watched House races in the country.
Ms. Herrell’s victory in a sprawling, rural district in the southern half of the state where the president is popular was a bright spot for House Republicans.
Elsewhere around the country, many first-term Democrats representing districts that supported Mr. Trump in 2016 appeared headed toward re-election. But Ms. Torres Small, a water rights lawyer who beat Ms. Herrell in an upset in 2018 by campaigning as a moderate, had long been considered one of the most politically vulnerable in her cohort because of the district’s conservative tilt.
On the campaign trail, Ms. Herrell, 56, positioned herself as a staunch ally of Mr. Trump’s, and prevailed in a bitter primary after running to the right of a more moderate candidate who had drawn the support of Republican leaders hoping to avoid a repeat of 2018.
“I’m more in touch with what our voter values are,” Ms. Herrell said in an interview in August. “This is a very family-oriented district, very blue collar, pro-Second Amendment, pro-life, pro-free market.”
Ms. Torres Small, 35, had sought to appeal to voters by playing up her affinity for guns and hunting, pledging to support the state’s gas and oil industry, and joining with Republicans on legislation enhancing security at the southern border. In Washington, she cut a low-profile but was widely seen by colleagues as a diligent worker who was privately vocal about the challenges of representing a politically competitive district.
“I will continue to stand up to my party when they’re out of touch with the reality on the ground” in the district, she wrote on Twitter in the final stretch of the campaign, publicly disagreeing with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, after he called for a transition from the oil industry.
But voters ultimately rejected Ms. Torres Small’s brand of centrism in favor of Ms. Herrell’s promise to restore conservative values — and Mr. Trump’s own entreaties.
“She believes in Make America Great Again as much as anybody I know,” Mr. Trump said last month during a telephonic rally in support of Ms. Herrell. “I am popular in your district, to put it mildly.”
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