Chris Mathys isn’t pulling any punches in his assessment of Yvette Herrell, saying the 2018 GOP nominee lost the congressional race to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small because Herrell wouldn’t debate Torres Small, she didn’t engage the media enough and she simply got out-worked by the former aide to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall.
That’s why Mathys, a Las Cruces businessman, is running for the Second Congressional District seat as a Republican candidate. He was in Hobbs earlier this week to visit with local Republicans about his campaign.
As for Herrell, Mathys believes she wasn’t up for an election against Torres Small.
“I like Yvette, but frankly she wasn’t strong as our nominee. She wouldn’t debate anyone,” Mathys said of Herrell’s 2018 campaign. “Yvette, to be candid, she had her shot. Guess what, she didn’t make it and a lot of it had to do with just not being accessible and not working hard. I think voters need someone that’s going to work hard because if you work hard to get elected, you’re going to apply that same work ethic once you are elected.”
Everywhere Mathys goes, he says Republicans still can’t believe they lost the congressional seat held by former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs for seven two-year terms. Pearce had been the only Republican among New Mexico’s congressional delegation for more than a decade.
The congressional district that spans the southern half of New Mexico had been held by a Democrat — Harry Teague of Hobbs— for only two years, 2010-11, since the state gained a third congressional district in 1983.
When Torres Small beat Herrell by 3,722 votes — thanks to more than 8,200 Doña Ana County absentee ballots announced after midnight on election night — Democrats were well on their way to taking back control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 2011.
Now, all five federal offices elected in New Mexico are held by Democrats.
“We don’t have a conservative perspective at all,” Mathys told the News-Sun during an interview Thursday. “We did with Steve Pearce for a long time, but we lost that. The other thing I think that is lacking is a strong voice for farmers and business people.”
While some Republicans have accused Democrats of stealing the 2nd District race in 2018, Mathys said Republicans should shoulder the blame.
“We did not work hard enough,” Mathys said. “What I believe happened is I believe, frankly, we didn’t run a strong enough campaign. Yes, there always are questionable ballots and I believe that questionable ballots should be protested before they’re counted, which did not happen.
“To use the word ‘stole’ I think is extreme. It’s always easy to blame someone when you lose instead of blaming yourself.”
In the final tally certified by the state’s Canvassing Board on Nov. 27, Torres Small received 101,489 votes, or 50.93 percent of the ballots cast, while Herrell received 97,767 votes, or 49.07 percent.
The whole experience has left Republican voters with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths, Mathys said.
“People are very upset that we dropped the ball,” he said. “I just have people shake their head, ‘I can’t believe we lost it. What were we doing? We’ve had the seat since the early 80s. We blew it.’ They’re very upset and they say ‘We need you to win this, win it this time, don’t lose it.’”
Mathys, a real estate broker from Las Cruces, and Herrell, a former state representative from Alamogordo, are the only two Republicans who have announced their campaigns for the 2020 Republican nomination. Mathys said he’s hoping for a one-on-one campaign against Herrell, but the field of GOP candidates remains unsettled.
Herrell announced in early January she wants a rematch against Torres Small. She never conceded the race to Torres Small and gave an apparent victory speech on election night after multiple major media outlets called the race in her favor.
Brian Sowyrda, deputy chief of staff for Torres Small, has said Torres Small plans to run for re-election in 2020.
Mathys, 61, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission in 2018, losing by just 27 votes to Ben Hall in the Republican primary. Born in San Diego, Calif., Mathys is a U.S. Army veteran, having served as a reporter in Panama. He served on the Fresno City Council from 1997-2001.
Mathys, who received a master’s of business administration via online from the University of the Southwest in Hobbs, said he wants to serve in Congress to fight Democrat socialists.
“We need that balance of power,” he said. “We need that fiscal restraint and we’re not getting it.”
Mathys says abortion is a national disgrace and there is a national crisis at the southern border. He supports the Religious Freedom Act, the 2nd Amendment, fiscal restraint, limited government, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, deporting illegal aliens and protecting the U.S. Constitution.
Mathys said President Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air in Washington, D.C., and someone who governs without being financially compromised. Mathys said he would be honored to receive an endorsement from the nation’s 45th president — the first Republican presidential nominee since Dwight D. Eisenhower who had not held elected office before running for president.
“I personally think that as a businessman, Donald Trump has brought to us, and to the business industry in general, really a breath of fresh air,” Mathys said. “The man gets things done. He’s not a politician, he doesn’t need the job, he doesn’t need the money. He’s really, I believe, going in with clean hands and trying to get things done. So I support a businessman being the president of the United States.”
Jeff Tucker can be reached at .