The House of Representatives will welcome new conservative members in January. Rep.-elect Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., is one such member, and today she joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how she plans to further and protect American’s founding principles in Washington.
As a former business owner, Herrell, who is of Cherokee descent, says her top policy priorities in representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District include protecting American jobs, expanding the economy, and securing the southern border.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about a young athlete with Down syndrome who just set a record in Guinness World Records.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Enjoy the show.
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Virginia Allen: I am so honored to welcome Congresswoman-elect Yvette Herrell to the show. Congresswoman-elect, thank you so much for being here today.
Yvette Herrell: I am delighted. Thank you for inviting me and having me on.
Allen: Well, a huge congratulations to you on winning your race in New Mexico. So, so exciting. We are just thrilled for you.
Herrell: You know what, it was really a blessing. We prayed hard, but we worked hard. And we had an incredible team that worked really tirelessly, but we also couldn’t have asked for a better grassroots.
I mean, people from all over the district helped in so many ways. It was signs, or stuffing envelopes, or knocking [on] doors, or making phone calls. And it was really a group effort, but I am so excited to have earned their support and their votes. And I’m ready to get to Washington and represent New Mexico.
Allen: Well, and come January, you will be headed to Washington, D.C., to do just that, to represent the 2nd District of New Mexico. … I want to begin by just talking a little bit about you and your journey into deciding to run for Congress. You grew up in New Mexico, correct?
Herrell: I did. I was actually born and raised in New Mexico and I lived here all my life. My parents still live here.
And I’ve been in business for myself for the last 20 years, but really what got me interested, very interested—in politics, and I don’t think this is unique to just me—after 9/11, to wake up and realize that our nation was under attack.
And I think right then a lot of people decided it’s time to get, one, more engaged in who’s making the decisions for us, but also, in church. I grew up in a Christian family and of course that 9/11 event made me want to get more engaged with even getting back into church.
And so, then I had the opportunity to work as a legislative assistant in Santa Fe for two years. And after doing that, I actually ran for office for the New Mexico House, 51 was the House seat. And I served for eight years, four terms. And then I gave up that seat to run for this office in 2018.
So, 2020 was a rematch for us and I’m just grateful that we won, but it’s just fascinating to see. And I don’t know if everybody understands just how much involvement government has in our everyday lives, our day-to-day lives. It’s not just business or industry, it’s everything. So, I do believe, again, it’s important to know who’s making those decisions for us on every level of government.
Allen: And as a business owner, I think you begin to realize that firsthand. You mentioned working in business and you really begin to see, through various regulations and trying to grow something from the ground up, that the government has a lot of say in either how well that’ll work out or how many hoops you’re going to have to jump through.
Herrell: They truly do. And I’m really fearful for the small businesses all over the country, but naturally in our state, because the cost of doing business doesn’t go away even in a pandemic. And so, this has been very concerning to me.
But you’re right, just the regulatory, the heavy hand, the restrictions, the licensing, the timeframes. And I’m a pusher for free markets for federalism or more people, less government. And I think that over the last several months in our state, we’ve seen decisions being made that are affecting our businesses, our employees, really affecting every aspect of New Mexico. And it’s not been pleasant.
We’ve seen winners and losers, some stores getting to stay open. The smaller maw and pop shops having to close. It’s been the governor’s discretion. And it’s been very hurtful for a lot of our small businesses, our restaurants, the gyms, the nail salons, you name it.
And we’ve all seen quite a hardship hit on New Mexico. And of course I know that’s happening around the nation, but again, it just exemplifies how much government is involved with our day-to-day lives.
Allen: As you look toward taking on this role as congresswoman for New Mexico, what are your plans and thoughts for how you are going to ensure that the people of New Mexico do have every opportunity to pursue starting businesses, to be entrepreneurs, and to have that freedom to grow their businesses?
Herrell: Right. And that’s a great question. I campaigned on this. No. 1, it’s about keeping the people of New Mexico at the forefront. And really it’s people over politics.
But what we can do, I mean, I can think of a number of things right off the bat. Obviously, we have got to make sure that we’ve got the good relationship partnerships going from federal, state, to the local level.
But on the federal level—and I’ve been impressed to see our [gross domestic product] numbers going through the roof, even despite what we’re dealing with in terms of the COVID-19—we have got to look at ways of giving the small business owners the tools they need.
We need to look at really reforming the cost of health care. And we can do so while protecting preexisting conditions.
The regulatory issues have been a huge burden, especially on our natural resources, our industries that come from natural resources here in the state.
I just look at the big picture and think, “Let’s expand those tax cuts. Let’s make sure that our business owners are keeping more money [in] their businesses and infusing it into the business and growing it.” And we’re also allowing employees to have more money in their pockets.
But I think if we start working more collectively and understand that if we can just move government to a point where we can allow the free market to really breathe and grow, and we can see that prosperity starting to happen, and I believe we can do this in a safe manner, I know we’re still going through the pandemic, but we have an economy that I believe we also have a responsibility to take care of.
And so, [these are] things that are really simple in terms of talking about them. So, it’s time to get to Washington and start putting some of those ideas into action.
Allen: Yeah, absolutely. It’s the both. And we’ve talked a lot at The Heritage Foundation about the importance of protecting both lives and livelihoods throughout this pandemic.
Allen: And it requires both, 100%. …
Herrell: Right. Yeah. We’ve seen that in New Mexico, where we’re trying to protect the lives of people, but I’ve said it over and over, yes, the government does have that responsibility to the health, safety, and welfare of the economy. But like you just mentioned, we also have that same responsibility to the people.
And in our state, what we’re seeing is just as suicide rate that is growing faster than we should see it grow. Our unemployment rate is staying high while our regional partners, our regional states are seeing somewhat of a decline, because they’re putting people back to work.
So, it’s a balancing act, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re looking at good policies and good decisions that benefit everybody.
Allen: Yeah, absolutely. What was the business that you ran in New Mexico, if you would just share a little bit about that?
Herrell: Yeah. So, for the last many years, I’ve actually been in real estate, real estate investing. I was actually flipping houses before it was a cool TV show.
Allen: Before Chip and Joanna started doing it.
Herrell: Yes, yes. Yeah, I missed the mark. Gosh darn. But I was because our family, my dad was self-employed and he had a real estate and construction business and insurance. And so, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and I’ve been really blessed to be able to have my own endeavors and invest in property, real estate contracts, those kinds of things.
And then another little fun fact that people don’t know so much about me is I’m a huge animal lover, but I actually raised and train[ed] dogs and show dogs for a number of years and owned a really great boarding kennel.
So, the dogs are always my passion, but that was a fun opportunity to do that. But as far as now, I’ve been in real estate for the last 15-plus years, and like I said, had the opportunity to invest in property and flip homes before it became so exciting on TV. And now I watch HDTV and get ideas for future opportunities, but I haven’t been able to do too many with all the campaigning going on.
Allen: Sure. You’ve been a little busy, that’s understandable.
Herrell: Yes, absolutely.
Allen: Now, I want to ask you about one of the issues that I know you’re passionate about, and that is border security. …
We’ve been talking about the economy, and there is this link between protecting and securing our borders and how that then impacts the economy. And when you have massive numbers of individuals coming over illegally, that’s obviously going to take an economic toll.
So, why are you so passionate about and why have you really campaigned on the fact that we want to welcome legal immigrants to this country? That’s something that we’ve always done. It’s a part of, you know, fulfilling that American dream, but we want those individuals to enter legally.
Herrell: Right. And that’s an important issue, especially living in New Mexico, where we have the southern border all along the southern part of this district.
We have to continue to protect the national security. And it’s not just about people coming here illegally and taking on jobs and benefiting from services that our taxpaying American citizens should be benefiting from, but we also have to look at the human trafficking, the drug trafficking. That’s not just a New Mexico issue, that’s an American issue.
So, I have been very supportive of continuing to build the border wall, especially infusing the technologies that they can use and help our Border Patrol and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents with the funding they need, the tools they need.
But in terms of the immigration system, we’ve heard it talked about for decades, but we haven’t seen any real reform. And you are absolutely right, because there are people that have skill sets that we are in need of. And it’s not just unique to New Mexico, it’s national.
But by and large, our [agricultural] industries are really hurting, because they’re not producing up to 100% capacity—our dairies, our farmers, ranchers, because they don’t have a workforce. And sadly, even in this time of pandemic when we’re seeing a lot of people being laid off, many people do not want to go to work in the ag industry.
So, we’ve got to ensure that we’re making it easier for our ag owners to hire people coming through the system legally. And then let’s take some major steps to ensure that. One, those that want to be here can do so without waiting in line for 10 or 15 years. That they really are here with the skill set to live the American dream.
And then let’s crack down and stop rewarding bad behavior, because what we’re seeing is people crossing over, benefiting from school education, housing.
I mean, I know that there was even some money that, I don’t think it passed, but in the COVID package for illegal [immigrants], and that’s very harmful to the American citizen who’s right now struggling to get by … and keep food on the table for their families.
Allen: Yeah. It’s really, really such a critical issue.
Now, one of the other topics that actually came up during the presidential debates, it came up during the last one, is that of the oil industry.
And I know that New Mexico has a significant oil and gas export. And it was a little concerning that former Vice President Joe Biden said that he would, his quote was, “I would transition from the oil industry.” Is this concerning to you?
Herrell: Absolutely. It’s not only concerning to me, it’s concerning to all of New Mexico, because 40-plus percent of our general revenue dollars come from the oil and gas industry. And then when you start looking at the jobs that are directly and indirectly related to that industry, we’re talking hundreds of thousands of jobs.
And yes, I mean, this is the state’s bread and butter. The president ran on a platform of being energy independent. New Mexico has two of the largest producing counties in the nation. And so, too can look at banning fracking or transitioning into an all green energy. No. 1, it’s not affordable. It’s not practical. It’s not science-based.
I think we’re looking at a Green New Deal or some form of legislation that really is not conducive to what our fossil fuels look like and what our natural resources are in the state.
But it’s very concerning. And we understand, we’ve seen a smaller carbon footprint, larger production, and less emissions out of New Mexico and other areas of the country in the last decade. So, science, and technology, and innovation is really driving the ability for us to use our fossil fuels and this industry in a clean way.
And the other thing people don’t understand is natural gas is a very clean energy source. It’s reliable. We’re not talking about nuclear energy.
But these are all components of New Mexico that, No. 1, employs so many people, help our general revenue fund, and this is something that we’re all coming together going, “We don’t want to be reliant on oil and gas from foreign nations. It’s not as clean. It’s more expensive.”
So, in a state like New Mexico where we are heavy oil and gas producers, these are things that are at the top of the conversation.
And after that debate, just before the election with President [Donald] Trump and Vice President Joe Biden, it was very concerning. And we saw major voter turnout, and I believe people were voting for their jobs at that point, because they understood that this decision was going to come down to possibly being open for business or shut indefinitely and having a job in the next number of months or not.
So, it’s something that we talk about here often. And we definitely now will have a seat at the table, somebody who’s been an advocate and supporter of the industry as a state representative and now as congresswoman-elect.
Allen: Yeah. No, we are so relieved in so many ways that you do have a seat at that table and to really fight for these issues that affect everyday Americans.
I know that you are such a lover of freedom and preserving the ideals that our nation was founded upon. And you’ve been involved with Heritage Action for America, which is the grassroots arm of The Heritage Foundation. You’re a sentinel for them, they work with thousands of Americans across the country to engage them in political activism in order to further those principles of liberty.
So, if you would, just tell us a little bit about the ways that you’ve been involved with Heritage Action for America in New Mexico.
Herrell: Well, even as a state representative, I was blessed to be able to get engaged with Heritage. And the resources, the people, the resources, it’s just incredible.
… When I served in the New Mexico House, we only had the majority for one term. So, we were in the minority. And I learned very quickly that the resources of people, even on the federal level, because they’re still looking at policies that affect the nation and affect the individual states.
And to be able to be involved, share those same values, those ideas, and come up with ways to communicate those and draft legislation that would benefit and protect our values, our Constitution, our freedom, and federalism—because these are things that I honestly don’t think we’re seeing taught in our school systems around the nation. Kids don’t understand federalism.
They don’t understand the Constitution and really what makes this nation the best nation in the world. And so, to have the idea of sharing and kicking around ideas and policies with like-minded people, so we can protect the America we love, … there’s no way to put a price on that.
I’m just so grateful to have been engaged and found people that … I thought I was the only one in New Mexico. Not so many people speak up about federalism and just being able to join the team and be a part of the sentinels and realize that, “Wow, there’s a lot more of us. Now, we just need to stand together and really protect the Constitution and the America we love and our free markets.” Our future, really, quite frankly.
Allen: Yeah. No, I think that’s always such a beautiful moment when you do realize like, “Oh, I’m not the only one. There are other Americans that are so passionate about defending liberty and fighting for the principles that our country was founded upon.”
Herrell: Right. And I think we saw that a lot in New Mexico, in terms of the voter turnout, because, like I said, we had gotten a taste of really what it would look like in a socialistic country.
I mean, when you’re having one person dictate who’s open, who’s closed, when you can go to church, when you can educate the kids—I mean, everything, like I said earlier, that touches our lives on a day-to-day basis, that didn’t set well.
And I think voters around the nation are starting to understand that our Constitution, our liberties are really at stake here. And in fact, my campaign the last several weeks was, “Look, this is way bigger than Yvette Herrell for Congress. This is about standing up for one nation under God. This is about fighting for our Constitution, for [the] Second Amendment, for free markets, federalism, clearly the future of our nation.”
I said, “Because I want our kids, and our grandkids, and our future generations to have the same opportunities for prosperity as we have all had.” And I know too many people sacrificed so that we would have the opportunity to vote and to live in a free country.
So, this has become a real talking point throughout our district as we realize what has really been at stake over the last number of years, but now people really waking up to the idea of, “OK, maybe we took advantage of living in this free nation and it’s time to exercise that right to keep this nation where we want it by going to the ballot box.”
Allen: Yeah. It’s a weighty reality when you realize, “Wow, freedom really is not guaranteed.” It’s something that with every generation, as [former President Ronald] Reagan said, we have to fight for.
Herrell: It’s one generation away from … Yeah, exactly.
And so, there were so many conversations, what I felt were very refreshing traveling around the district, because the dialogue shifted from early on in the campaign, even in the primary, from border security, or Second Amendment, or things that we would typically be talking about to, “What about our constitutional rights? What about our freedoms? We don’t like the governor telling us we can’t go to church, or we can’t open our doors, or we can’t occupy more than 20% in a business setting.”
And that started, I think, ringing true. And that wasn’t a political party issue, that was a patriot issue. That was a people issue where all people of all races and all party affiliation started understanding that maybe this isn’t going the way we thought it was.
And I’ve said, for many years, I believe conservatives as a whole got a little bit complacent in government. Didn’t like taking God out of schools. Didn’t like some of the changes that were being made kind of incrementally. And now we wake up and realize that I believe these 2020 elections for the House seats, for the Senate seats, for the presidential, and even down-ballot into our individual states for House and Senate seats are really critical. And it’s going to make a big difference on the direction of our nation and our individual states.
Allen: Yeah. No, you’re absolutely right. It makes a huge difference. It has been encouraging, though. I’ve been personally really encouraged to see so many new conservatives elected to the House, specifically conservative women.
You’re one of 13 conservative women who, in January, will be taking those seats in the House. And that has such an incredible and huge impact for generations to come.
Herrell: It does.
Allen: I wanted to ask you, you are one of now three Native American women who are serving in the House. What is that like to be only the third Native American woman [and the first Republican] to be serving in the House of Representatives?
Herrell: Yeah. You know what, … I’m very proud of my heritage. I am enrolled in the Cherokee Nation. But honestly, we didn’t let gender or race be a topic in our campaign. I am an American citizen first, a New Mexican. And really, I signed up to represent all Americans and all New Mexicans and regardless of race, but it is exciting.
But we never did any type of identity politics or even spoke about it, because I really didn’t want to get caught up in that race thing throughout. I wanted people to know me as a candidate, as a Christian, as a person who would bring the values of the 2nd Congressional District to Washington, D.C. But it is exciting.
And being enrolled, again, I’m very proud of our heritage, my family’s heritage. And it’s just an exciting year, because, like you just said, there are so many women that stepped up to the plate to run and so many that are winning their seats in and it’s neat that we will have a freshman class with so many women, and I’ve gotten to meet most of them.
I think we’re ready to get to work, and roll up our sleeves, and lend our hand in helping direct the nation to the areas that we think it needs help and really get our voices heard as, not as just women, but as conservatives that want to make sure that we’re saving and protecting our Constitution.
Allen: Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s certainly an exciting time in history.
I know that often politicians will talk about, “When I first arrive, on my first day, I wanted to prioritize taking this action.” Are there things that are at the top of your list that you say, “Right away, when I get to D.C., I want to focus on this”?
Herrell: Well, really, and I’ve answered this question a couple of times, what I have said, and I’ll continue to say, [is] that my first priority is the people of New Mexico. …
It is a humbling and I’m so grateful for this experience. And I know coming into this race with the experience I had from the state legislative body, and then as a candidate and a business owner, I’m a job creator. I understand what it’s like to sign both sides of the paycheck. But really having those shared values and an understanding of what we’re really fighting for, in terms of our country.
My first priority is the people of New Mexico. And for me, it’s always been about relationships, whether it’s a constituent, or a company, or a community, those are the things that I want to focus on. So, I want the voters in my district to know you still have direct access to me.
We will prioritize mobilizing really good district constituent services, so that the voters and the business owners, they know they are going to have a voice. They are going to have a place to be able to share their concerns and where we can meet and make sure that we’re keeping our finger on the pulse. Things happen very quickly.
Naturally, I would like to, of course, do what we can to start making it easier for businesses to get back on their feet. And I mentioned earlier, some of the health care costs, regulation, tax cuts, things that we can do.
And then in our state, because it is so rural in this district, let’s look at ways that we can give our ranching communities the help they need. There are just so many environmentalist groups. We see that the predatory animals in our state have more rights than the ranchers.
And so, working with Department of Interior, with [United States Department of Agriculture], things that we can come, and maybe not in the form of a bill, but maybe a simple rule change, or at least an ear to hear what we are really dealing with on the local state level with some of the issues that are coming out of Washington, D.C. …
I tell you, … I could go on and on because there are so many things that are important to everybody, but keeping the people’s voice at the front and center, that’s my main priority for sure. I’ve always said the people of New Mexico are my special interest group.
Allen: I love that. That’s perfect.
Allen: Well, congresswoman-elect, we just thank you so much for your time today and congratulations to you once again.
Herrell: Well, I couldn’t be more excited and more proud. And I look forward to visiting with you over and over again, and working with The Heritage Foundation, and with the sentinels, and everybody, because I know there’s just some great ideas and some great people that are working so hard for the country. And I am now so proud to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Allen: Absolutely. We look forward to working with you in the future and having you back on the show.
Herrell: Thank you. I appreciate it so much.