With the 2020 elections more than a year a way, Chris Mathys is already hitting the campaign trail in hopes of being the Republican to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.
A 61-year-old commercial lender and real estate broker from Las Cruces, Mathys is a former city council member from Fresno. Last year, he lost by 23 votes in a race for a seat for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.
Mathys has spent the last few months traveling across the sprawling 19-county southern New Mexico district in a gray pickup truck. In the bed of the truck is an American flag and a large sign emblazoned with his name and the words “conservative Republican.”
He has spent his time introducing himself to voters at events such as a meeting of the Portales Co-op and at monthly meetings of the Chaves County Federated Republican Women. For a Republican to win, Mathys said that it is important to have strong support in Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties.
“I want to meet every single voter I can, personally,” Mathys said in an interview Tuesday.
He added that when talking with voters, he gives each person a business card with his personal cellphone number and tells them to call him if they have any questions or concerns.
“I want them to know who Chris Mathys is. I want to look at them in the eye and I want them to be able to have access to me,” Mathys said.
Mathys said part of the reason he is running is to bring some partisan balance back to what is now New Mexico’s all-Democratic congressional delegation.
“So it’s important to me that the Republican voice be heard,” she said.
Last year, the normally Republican U.S. House seat was picked up by Democrats when Torres Small narrowly defeated Republican candidate and former state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo. Herrell in January officially announced she would run for the seat again in 2020.
Mathys said his campaign is more grassroots than Herrell’s.
Focusing on small contributions and not receiving money from what he calls special interests is very important to Mathys. He said far too often, people who don’t give to campaigns feel ignored.
Part of the problem with Washington D.C., Mathys said, is that those special interests hold too much sway. Mathys has raised $76,000 since Jan. 1, according to campaign reports with Federal Election Commission, compared with $284,985 raised by Herrell in that same period. Torres Small has $452,866 in her campaign account.
Part of the reason Republicans did not win the seat was because they did not work hard enough, Mathys said. He also blames Herrell for not taking part in public debate forums with Torres Small. He said if he is the nominee, he will take part in debates.
Despite also being from Las Cruces, Mathys said he has never met Torres Small, but said the first few months of her term have been a disappointment.
He cites Torres Small’s vote to elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House as an example. During her campaign, she did not commit to voting for Pelosi, saying she would vote for a candidate for speaker, who recognized the needs of rural New Mexico.
Torres Small in January threw her support behind Pelosi. Torres Small said she did so because Pelosi had listened to her about the need to ensure greater access to healthcare in rural areas.
“So that tells me again, she is a typical politician,” Mathys said.
Border security is something Mathys said he thinks is a top priority. He supports President Donald Trump’s declaration of a National Emergency, which allows Trump to shift money from military infrastructure projects to use to build a wall along the southern border.
Majorities in both the House and Senate voted to disapprove the declaration, but did not muster the votes needed to overturn Trump’s veto of the resolution.
“We have a lot of money and we spend a lot of money on a lot of things, and to me, our primary goal is to protect Americans, and right now our border is too porous and is not being enforced properly,” he said.
Mathys said he agrees with Trump’s description of the situation on the southern border as a crisis.
He said that he does not think someone can be serious about border security if they do not support a wall. A wall along the entire southern border is not practical though, Mathys said.
In some areas along the border, a wall is not possible, and there are some sections of the border where a person cannot physically cross.
“Wherever someone can physically cross, we need to have a barrier,” Mathys said.
He said he also would back a proposal tweeted out by Trump this weekend to transport all people who enter the country illegally to sanctuary cities. Many of those cities such as San Fransisco are concerned with caring for people in the country and therefore should be willing to care for those people.
Albuquerque is a sanctuary city. He was unsure if his hometown of Las Cruces was, but said if they are, they will have to help care for those migrants.
“Las Cruces is going to have to bite the bullet, too,” Mathys said.
Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on products from countries that engage in unfair trade practices, something that Mathys said he supports. Tariffs are sometimes necessary to make sure foreign countries are abiding by the rules of trade agreements.
“If China wants to trade with America, China needs to be fair about it,” Mathys said.
Mathys said that improvements need to be made to make healthcare. He said that on the campaign trail, he speaks to families that are paying thousands a month for health insurance for three people. Universal healthcare though, is something that Mathys said he does not support.
“I don’t think it’s the role of the taxpayers to pay for medical insurance for everyone,” he said.
Congress needs to come up with a healthcare solution, but Mathys said he does not know yet what that solution will look like. He said any healthcare plan will have to keep intact protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
“If someone has a pre-existing condition, it would not be fair to put that person in a box and say, ‘Sorry, you are not going to get any help,’” he said.
New Mexico was carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections, but Mathys said that does not mean he is worried about being a Republican on the ballot with Trump. He said the strong economy and legislation signed by Trump to reduce taxes will work to his benefit in winning re-election in 2020 and possibly winning New Mexico.
Mathys added he would be honored if Trump came to New Mexico to campaign for him.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.