WASHINGTON -- Former state Rep. Yvette Herrell won a nasty Republican primary in New Mexico's 2nd District on Tuesday, setting up a rematch against Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, one of the GOP's top targets this year.
Herrell, who lost to Torres Small by less than 2 points in 2018, beat oil industry executive Claire Chase and businessman Chris Mathys in a race that drew $1.3 million in outside spending and even some Democratic mischief.
Republican voters also chose Mark Ronchetti to take on Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for the open New Mexico Senate seat Democrat Tom Udall is vacating. Lujan was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The vast, rural 2nd District covers the southern half of the state and backed President Donald Trump by 10 points in 2016.
With 64% of precincts reporting, Herrell was leading with 46% of the vote when The Associated Press called the race. Chase had 30 percent, followed by Mathys with 23 percent. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Tilt Democratic.
Democratic outside groups spent $200,000 on ads and distributed mailers they said were opposed to both GOP candidates -- but may have boosted Herrell by criticizing her loyalty to Trump. Some Democrats saw her as easier to beat because she lost to Torres Small in 2018.
Herrell and Chase began the race competing over who was most supportive of the president, but soon veered into personal attacks after the conservative Breitbart News unearthed Facebook posts from 2015 in which Chase used an obscenity to describe Trump and said she would not vote for him.
Chase responded by attempting to depict Herrell as the one with a loyalty problem, raising questions about whether Herrell had tried to rally support for Trump's rivals during the 2016 presidential nominating contest. Chase also said Trump would not have been impeached had Herrell not lost in 2018.
Herrell later aired a television ad in which a blond Chase impersonator read the old Facebook posts in a Valley Girl voice. She also was alleged to have peddled rumors about Chase's first marriage -- charges Herrell vehemently denied.
Herrell trailed Chase in fundraising. She raised $820,000 and had $70,000 in the bank as of May 13. Chase, in contrast, brought in $1.3 million -- $40,000 of which was self-funded -- and had $200,000 on hand. Mathys raised $293,000 -- with $276,000 of that self-funded -- and had $15,000 in his coffers on May 13.