Blair Dunn always knew he was a Libertarian, but instead registered as a Republican. Like Hermey the Elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Blair has found solace on his own island of misfits. Blair’s island is the Libertarian Party of New Mexico. At almost seven feet tall with his signature cowboy boots and bow tie, Dunn will never be mistaken for an elf. He’s easy to spot, even in the most crowded room.
For the first time in state history, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico held a pre-primary convention to vote nominees for state and federal offices. Because all six candidates were unopposed, there wasn’t the contention usually expected at major party nominating conventions. Instead, party members focused on celebrating the party’s move towards prominence and public visibility in the New Mexico political sphere. “This is, by far and away, the most visibility the party has successfully achieved in the state,” Libertarian Party of New Mexico Vice-Chair Helen Milenski said. Still, the group of about 100 attendees spent the day meeting the candidates and listening to their stump speeches.
SANTA FE—It was a political nerd’s dream. Dozens of people aiming for state office filed through the elevator doors into the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday to navigate the three-stage process of declaring their candidacy. The day offered a rare early opportunity for candidates and their staff to interact with one another—which included a lot of smiles and polite handshakes, even across party lines. The process was straightforward—there were three stations to verify and confirm paperwork and petition signatures—and took about 20 minutes for most candidates. Here are my notes from the field: 9:05 a.m. I’m running late, because I’m from New Mexico.
Something major happened with the Libertarian Party of New Mexico yesterday—it officially became a major party. After Gov. Susana Martinez issued her biennial primary election proclamation late Monday, the New Mexico Secretary of State announced that New Mexico’s liberty and limited government-minded group will have equal standing with the Democratic and Republican parties for the first time in New Mexico history. Monday, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, on a rooftop deck in Old Town Albuquerque, officially announced its slate of candidates for everything from Congress to State Land Commissioner. In most of those races, candidates will be facing off against uncontested Republicans and lots of Democrats. With election day about eight months off, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has three statewide and three congressional hopefuls collecting signatures to qualify as official candidates.
Former State Representative and former State Senate candidate Sandra Jeff can now add one more “former” before her name: former Democrat. Jeff updated her voter registration to the Libertarian Party Thursday afternoon at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office with the intention of running for Secretary of State. “I want to stop corruption, and I feel that I have every right to work with the constituents within the state of New Mexico to bring forth a new horizon because that is what is needed in this state in order for us to move forward,” Jeff told NM Political Report. Jeff represented House District 5, which includes a large portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, for two terms before she was kicked off the ballot during her run for a third term because she did not collect enough valid signatures. As a Representative, she sometimes voted against fellow Democrats on key issues, most notably when she skipped a vote to raise the minimum wage in 2014, even after then-Vice President Joe Biden called her personally and asked her to vote in favor of it.
The Libertarian Party of New Mexico’s membership numbers are now high enough to qualify the group for major party status. Now that determination lies on how many votes former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson receives on election night in the state. If Johnson wins five percent of the vote in New Mexico, the state’s Libertarian Party could have a nominee on the next gubernatorial ballot. Libertarian Party of New Mexico Director Burly Cain told NM Political Report voters are finding it increasingly difficult to find a candidate they agree with, especially during this election cycle. “Many people in this election cycle are finding that they are looking for underlying principles that match their political ideals,” Cain said.
New Mexico could see a Libertarian primary election on the same day as the Democratic and Republican primaries in 2018. That will depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election and if the state’s Libertarian Party can boost its membership numbers. Currently the Libertarian Party is considered a minor party in New Mexico, along with the Green and Constitutional parties. But if at least 5 percent of voters in New Mexico vote for the party’s presidential nominee, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party will be on its way to be considered a “major party” in the state and qualify for its own primary election. Johnson is currently polling in the 5 to 10 percent range nationally, but in New Mexico he is polling as high as 24 percent.
New Mexico’s Democratic and Republican candidates are readying for a primary election in less than a month. They have been canvassing neighborhoods and raising money for weeks. But they might not be the only candidates in the ballot come November. Candidates who are members of minor parties or are independent and not part of any political party cannot file to run until almost two months after their major party counterparts. Robert Bridgwater, the former chairman of the Independent American Party for New Mexico, told NM Political Report that minor parties in New Mexico face an uphill battle during election season.