Fox News: Why Yvette Herrell isn't conceding her midterm race

Native Republican candidate refuses to concede race for Congress

By Acee Agoyo

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds in a state that rode the Democratic wave on Election Day, a Native Republican who ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives isn't giving up.

After early returns showed Yvette Herrell in the lead for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, the Cherokee Nation citizen actually delivered a victory speech last Tuesday night. But she soon found out that she had spoken too soon.

"Everybody goes to bed thinking I have been declared the winner," Herrell told Fox News on Saturday. "Then they find out there were 8,000 ballots that came out of nowhere."

Those 8,000 ballots from "nowhere" happened to be cast by voters in Doña Ana County, which is the most populous in the district. Once they were counted on Wednesday, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small emerged the following day with a lead of nearly 2,800 votes, according to the Secretary of State

And that's when Torres Small gave her own impromptu victory speech. "Xoch goes to Congress!" a video on her campaign's Facebook page declared.

But Herrell -- and Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro, whose employer rebuked her after she gave an election-eve speech in support of President Donald Trump -- smell something fishy. During the segment, both attempted to portray the ballots from "nowhere" as a Democratic conspiracy, noting that the Doña Ana County Clerk, as well as the newly re-elected Secretary of State, are members of the party.

"I think that's something we need to look into," Herrell said of the ballots that led to her apparent loss.

Herrell, though, failed to offer specifics when Pirro asked what she was going to do about the matter. That's because she isn't entitled to a recount -- though the race was close, the vote difference was too large to trigger an automatic recount under state law.

Herrell could petition for a recount if she believes error or fraud has occurred, which she implied was the case due to "documented" complaints about the November 6 election. But she'd have to pay for it in the event the recount doesn't change the vote tally.

"We will not accept anything less than total fairness and transparency from the officials in charge of counting ballots and certifying the results," New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi said on Monday. On Election Night, he had prematurely congratulated Herrell for her victory over "left-wing special interest groups" that he said tried to "buy" the Congressional race.

The office of Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat who defeated Republican Gavin Clarkson, who is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, will certify the results from the historic Election Day later this month. It appears unlikely that the results for the 2nd Congressional District will change.

Beyond her impromptu speech last week, Torres Small has been keeping a low profile, at least in the media and online. On Sunday, she resurfaced on Twitter in recognition of Veterans Day.

"Today we honor the men and women in uniform who made many sacrifices and risked their lives to grant us our liberty," the post read. "To those who have and continue to fight to protect our freedoms, thank you!"

Torres Small's first name means "flower" in Nahuatl, an indigenous language spoken in Mexico and Central America. She does not identify as indigenous, however.

But she will be joining a unique and historic delegation. When the 116th Congress starts in January, all three U.S. Representatives from New Mexico will be Democrats. The two U.S. Senators from the state are also Democrats.

Included in the delegation is Deb Haaland, who is one of the first two Native women elected to the U.S. House. The Pueblo of Laguna citizen trounced her Republican opponent in the 1st Congressional District by a wide margin on November 6.

“Deb Haaland’s historic campaign made all New Mexicans proud," said state Democratic party chair Marg Elliston. "I’m proud that for the first time in history a Native American woman will be walking the halls of Congress."

With her campaign making news around the world, Haaland has been on a media blitz since her victory last Tuesday. She has appeared on Democracy Now, MSNBC and CNN in recent days in light of her groundbreaking achievement.

"I’m looking forward to making sure we hold the Trump administration accountable and advocating for the change we have all demanded through this election," Haaland said after her appearance on MSNBC on Sunday, her second on the network in the last week.

The other Native candidate who made history last week is Sharice Davids, a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation. She ousted a long-serving Republican in the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas.

"As these Native women Congressional representatives get ready to head to Washington, D.C. or begin work in their state, they inspire a new generation of Native women and girls to become leaders in government and change-makers in their communities," the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center said in a statement. "Just as important, these women are also in a position to bring awareness to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and families, a population that is all too often invisible to most of the American public."

The addition of Haaland and Davids to Congress has doubled the number of tribal citizens serving in the House. Tom Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, easily won his seat in Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District, where he has served since 2003.

Markwayne Mullin, who hails from the Cherokee Nation, was also victorious in Oklahoma. He defeated Jason Nichols, a fellow tribal citizen, in the 2nd Congressional District, where he has served since 2013.

Haaland and Davids will be a part of the new Democratic majority in the House when the new session convenes. The party has won at least 225 seats, eight more than needed to gain control of the chamber.

The shift in power will affect the House Committee on Natural Resources, which has undergone years of turmoil under Republican control. Tribal leaders frequently criticized the panel and its outgoing chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), for often taking a negative approach to their sovereignty.

The incoming chairman is expected to be Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), who has taken a more activist approach to Indian issues. He was among the first in Congress to support the Oak Flat movement to protect a sacred Apache site in Arizona, as well as the #NoDAPL movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs, which is part of Natural Resources, will also see change. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-California), who became chairman of the panel in January 2017, will be stepping down from that role as a result of the election.

The subcommittee's top Democrat is currently Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), who could assume the chairman's position in the 116th Congress. Democrats have not yet made their selections for the leadership positions.

The Senate will remain under Republican control in the 116th Congress.

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