August 14, 2018

Former Gov. Johnson in Senate race

Matthew Reichbach

Gary Johnson

The Libertarian Party of New Mexico filed paperwork to name former governor Gary Johnson as its nominee for U.S. Senate.

The Secretary of State updated the listing of candidates to include Johnson Tuesday morning after the party filed at 9:30 on Monday, the office said. He will face incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican contractor Mick Rich in the November general election.

The Libertarian Party of New Mexico Central Committee voted Johnson as its candidate earlier this month after State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, the original nominee, withdrew from the race. For about a week after the nomination, while supporters anticipated a run, Johnson stayed silent on his plans. But days after his nomination, Johnson’s former presidential campaign manager started Elect Liberty PAC in support of Johnson.

Johnson’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from NM Political Report before publication.

Johnson served two terms as governor while a member of the Republican Party and also ran for president as a Republican in 2012. Frustrated he couldn’t participate in the presidential debates, Johnson switched to the Libertarian Party and ran as that party’s presidential nominee in 2016.

By receiving the support of 9 percent of voters in New Mexico in 2016, he helped the Libertarian Party gain major party status.

After his 2016 campaign, Johnson repeatedly said he would not run for office again.

But last month, he changed his mind.

Some Libertarians have said Rich should drop out because a poll showed Johnson leading Heinrich in a two-candidate race. Heinrich’s campaign released polling numbers that showed Heinrich leading in both a three-way race involving Rich and Johnson and a two-way race between Heinrich and Johnson.

Also on Tuesday, Johnson’s verified Twitter account sent out a video from Elect Liberty PAC that touted the former governor’s candidacy. The ad called Johnson “fiscally conservative and socially cool.”

Democratic Party of New Mexico chairwoman Marg Elliston slammed Johnson in a statement, saying his “extreme positions would take us backward” and mentioned the PAC’s ad.

“It’s telling of his character that in his first move to run for Senate, Gary Johnson coordinated his campaign launch with a Utah-based Super PAC run by his former campaign manager,” she said. “Not only is he circumventing federal election law so wealthy donors can tip the scales in this Senate race, no New Mexico voter actually voted for him to be on the ballot.

Republican candidate Mick Rich’s campaign also criticized Johnson.

“Hard-working taxpayers are fed up with career politicians,” campaign spokesman Nathan James said. “We need a senator who will work for everyday families. Mick Rich has helped to build New Mexico’s communities, and employed hundreds of New Mexicans in good-paying jobs.”

The election takes place Nov. 6.