A group of New Mexico Republicans protested outside U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small’s office in Belen on Wednesday as part of a campaign against Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
State GOP Chairman Steve Pearce, who led the gathering, called on the Democratic congresswoman to clarify her stance on the issue of impeachment, saying she was “playing both sides of the fence.”
“I believe she is trying to tiptoe down the line that appeases the far left and tells the far right she’s on their side, too,” said Pearce, who formerly held the Southern New Mexico congressional seat now occupied by Torres Small. “You can’t take both sides.”
Torres Small is part of small group of House Democrats who have not clearly endorsed an impeachment inquiry over Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president, in which the president pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family at a time when Ukraine was seeking U.S. military assistance for its conflict with Russian-backed troops.
Torres Small’s office declined a request Wednesday by The New Mexican to speak with the congresswoman and said it did not have any comment on the matter.
In an escalation of the Washington drama, the White House said Tuesday it will not participate in ongoing investigations being led by House Democratic leaders.
The gathering outside Torres Small’s office was part of a national campaign called “Stop the Madness” announced earlier this week by the Republican National Committee and Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee made up of the Trump campaign and the RNC.
The campaign is focusing on Democratic House members who won election last year in districts that voted for Trump in 2016 and who Republicans accuse of going back on campaign promises to reach across the aisle.
“With this impeachment inquiry, many of them are supporting it prior to seeing the transcript, prior to any of the facts,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on a call Monday with reporters. “They went forward, barreling ahead, to put our country into chaos without thought for their constituents or the promises they made in their districts to get elected.”
Yet Torres Small has voiced concern about reaching a conclusion about impeachment while lawmakers are still examining the facts.
The congresswoman said Oct. 2 that the testimony and documents involving Trump’s call “must be investigated.” Yet she also said that calling the process an impeachment inquiry “has led some in the public to believe that a conclusion has been reached while the process is still ongoing and facts are still being gathered.”
“The gravity of the moment demands that we protect the integrity and clarity of the investigative process,” she said.
Asked why Republicans were targeting a congresswoman who was calling for a “fact-driven investigation,” Pearce said Torres Small was being “opaque.”
“I want to know where my congresswoman stands on that issue,” he said. “Do you favor impeachment or do you not favor it?”
Wednesday’s protest had 20 to 25 people with Trump signs, banners and hats on the street and sidewalk outside Torres Small’s office, Pearce said.
Republicans have held similar small protests in other areas of the country this week. Around 30 to 40 Arizona Republicans opposed to an impeachment inquiry protested in front of the office of Rep. Tom O’Halleran on Tuesday, according to Arizona PBS. There also was a protest Monday in Wisconsin outside the office of Rep. Ron Kind, according to the ABC affiliate in La Crosse.
Political experts said Wednesday the GOP’s focus on Torres Small was essentially part of a Republican campaign to gain back her congressional seat after she won a tight election in the conservative 2nd District last year.
“Republicans will do all they can to get it back,” said New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff. “Having protests in front of Xochitl Torres Small’s office is a good way of drawing attention to any polarizing issue that might exist in the district, such as an impeachment inquiry.”
After winning in a tight election last year, Torres Small likely will face a tough race again in 2020 to retain her seat.
The incumbent may have an even tougher road to reelection if Trump follows through on his promise to campaign in New Mexico, as that would likely increase Republican turnout at the polls.
“She’s got a tough battle for reelection,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “She needs to be careful.”