January 30, 2018

Libertarian Party gets a boost in NM

Andy Lyman

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. Its most notable candidate is New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who recently changed his official registration from Republican to Libertarian and announced a run for U.S. Senate.

“I think it’s an exciting time and it gives voters, who are possibly dissatisfied with the gridlock that happens and the party politics that go on between the Democrats and Republicans, an opportunity to vote for a third party,” Dunn said.

Besides Dunn, the potential Libertarian ticket has a list of political converts, including former Democratic State Representative Sandra Jeff and Aubrey Dunn’s son Blair, who once ran for State senate as a Republican with “very strong” libertarian leanings.

Jeff is running for Secretary of State and Blair Dunn is running for Attorney General.

Lloyd Princeton, running for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, said he left the Democratic party after he saw both Democrats and Republicans missing the mark.

“While they’re fighting over whether the sofa should be red or blue, the house is in foreclosure,” Princeton said. “They’re missing the point.”

Princeton is hoping to face off against one of the many Democrats and one Republican also vying for U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s spot. Lujan Grisham opted not to run for reelection and to run for governor instead.

A new process

Some credit for the party’s rise in New Mexico goes to former Republican governor and Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, said LPNM Chair Chris Luchini.

“We owe it to [Johnson] for galvanizing the voters in New Mexico,” Luchini said.

Johnson got more than nine percent of the New Mexico vote during the 2016 Presidential election. LPNM membership numbers are about double the minimum required amount.

“I know that we have gotten some very, very credible candidates because we’re a major party,” Luchini said.

In New Mexico, a party earns major party status when one of its candidates receives at least five percent of the vote during the previous gubernatorial or presidential election and its registered voters constitute one-third of one percent of registered voters statewide.

Johnson admitted that his 2016 presidential run played a role in the party’s growth, but stopped short of taking credit personally.

Johnson said he’s particularly excited about Dunn’s run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich.

“Man, I thought that was really exciting,” Johnson said.

Excitement aside, the LPNM will have to navigate getting its list of candidates on the ballot through a pre-primary process, like Democrats and Republicans have long done.

At its pre-primary convention in March, LPNM caucus members will decide who gets on the ballot for Congress, Senate and a list of state offices. Those who win the pre-primary election have an advantage; those who don’t win are required to collect a higher number of signatures to get on the primary election ballot. Candidates in minor parties like the Green Party, which briefly had major party status in the 90s, have to collect more signatures than those with major parties to get on the ballot.

Put simply, the national Libertarian Party’s platform is based in personal liberty with limited government oversight. For example, the party’s platform calls for less government oversight of personal relationships, but also calls for a free-market economy and privatized education and health care. Of course, to what end the party’s principles apply vary among members.

Johnson, for example, caught heat from some party members on his views of how much government is acceptable. He received jeers from a crowd when he advocated for requiring driver proficiency exams. Another candidate for president offered rhetoric, saying soon people will need a license to use a “damn toaster.”

Helen Milenski, LPNM vice chair, told NM Political Report the state party acknowledges there is a spectrum of beliefs and encompasses them all under the Libertarian “umbrella.”

Princeton called the party “fundamentally simple.”

Just go about your business,” Princeton said. “As long as whatever your doing doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s life or livelihood, why do I care?”