By Austin Anderholt | USA
For the past 2 election seasons, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico has dominated New Mexico. The state’s support for the party is steadily increasing and shows no signs of stopping. So what’s going on with the libertarian frenzy in the land of Enchantment? What’s in store for the libertarians in New Mexico?
Right off the bat, we have to address the porcupine in the room: Gary Johnson. Johnson was the Libertarian nominee for President in both the 2012 and 2016 elections. Why? Johnson had something that the other libertarian candidates lacked: Gubernational experience. Specifically in New Mexico. If you look at recent presidential election data, you can see that New Mexicans have supported the Libertarian Party much more when their former governor was the nominee. But here’s where things get interesting: New Mexico didn’t cease to be libertarian when Libertarian New Mexicans stopped being on the ballot. In fact, they’re growing stronger than ever.
Although Johnson didn’t come close to receiving the 2016 popular vote in his home state, his party received a huge consolation: A historic 5% of voters cast their ballots libertarian, lowering the crazy signature requirements that Libertarians face getting on the ballot each election.
New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, elected in 2014 as a Republican, is giving “heavy consideration” to a run for governor under the Libertarian Party, his son and campaign adviser Blair Dunn said Monday.
State Libertarian Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanes stated at least five people have expressed interest in the Libertarian nomination for governor, though she declined to name them.
Second-term GOP Governor Susana Martinez cannot run for re-election in 2018. The Republican and Democratic Gubernational primaries already include well-financed campaigns from two current Congresspeople: Steve Pearce, the sole Republican candidate so far, and Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham in a crowded Democratic primary.
A year ahead of the general election, the Libertarian Party in New Mexico still only has about 7,100 registered voters and a single declared candidate in a major race — who has yet to file a nominating petition. The filing deadline for federal and statewide New Mexican candidates is Feb. 6.
Grady Owens, a 32-year-old undergraduate astrophysics student in the small community of Mayhill, has begun to gather signatures for what he admits is a longshot campaign to win New Mexico’s southern congressional district, where Pearce will not run for re-election. He has high hopes for the party that espouses minimal government and maximum personal freedom, but also said it has not been easy to track down signatures from registered Libertarians in rural Otero and Lincoln counties.
“The more candidates that we start to field, the more legitimate our party will seem to most voters,” Owens said.
Independents have to gather about 15,000 signatures to run for governor in New Mexico, and about 6,800 for the state’s southern Congressional district. Minor-party candidates have to gather one-third of that amount.
With their major-party status, Libertarian party candidates must gather only 230 signatures to enter the primary for governor, and as few as 77 for Congress. They also need approval at a pre-primary Libertarian convention that Hanes describes as open-minded.
“We do not in any way attempt to dictate our candidates’ platform,” she said. “The Libertarian Party of New Mexico takes a big-tent philosophy.” This will help the party in its fight to be the major “Third choice” in all elections. Not only does it stand for promoting self-government, but anti-mainstream political parties in general
The Libertarians aren’t the only big New Mexican third party: The Green Party achieved major-party status in New Mexico in 1994 by winning 10 percent of the vote in a three-way governor’s race won by Gary Johnson, then a Republican. Johnson defeated incumbent Gov. Bruce King and Green Party candidate Roberto Mondragon and was re-elected in 1998.
Johnson announced recently that he will not continue to run for public office and will put his political efforts on a lawsuit attempting to let third-party candidates engage in televised presidential debates.