By Drew Zirkle | New Mexico
The New Mexico Senate race, a competition that was previously thought to be a predictable stroll for incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich (D), is expected to change drastically in the coming hours and days. Gary Johnson, prominent Libertarian Presidential candidate & former Republican Governor of the state is expected to enter the race soon.
The current candidate that the Libertarian Party is fielding for Senate, Aubrey Dunn, is expected to relinquish the nomination for the race today at 2:30 PM EST according to the chair of the NM LP, Chris Luchini. This will allow the New Mexican Libertarian Party the opportunity to nominate a new candidate for the upcoming general election in November. Luchini has confirmed that the New Mexico Libertarian Party Central Committee has already scheduled a meeting for this coming Saturday to choose a replacement candidate to run for Senate.
When reached by phone, Luchini stated that he spoke with Gary Johnson earlier today and that Johnson was “very interested in considering getting into the race.” Luchini also stated that there were no other candidates interested in running and that the central committee was ready to “offer [Johnson] the position.”
This development comes at an incredibly crucial time for the Libertarian Party, as the New Mexico LP has reportedly received an incredible increase in donations and interest for the upcoming Senate race. In addition to the increasing strength of the Libertarian Party, the GOP is facing difficulties in this particular race. The GOP candidate, Mick Rich, has no political experience, is polling very poorly, and has reportedly only raised around $650,000. Additionally, according to an unnamed source, Mick Rich refused to accept campaign donations at a recent campaign event in Los Alamos, leading to some speculation that Mick Rich may drop out of the race, leaving the Senate race wide open for a potentially powerful Johnson campaign to take on Heinrich.
Regardless of whether Mick Rich drops or not, his campaign is beginning to flounder, with most polling data putting him under 40% despite the fact that most GOP candidates are competitive in statewide races in New Mexico. Gary Johnson, a popular former Governor and a recurring figure in national politics, is expected to have a competitive advantage over Rich. Johnson is also expected to be a problem for Martian Heinrich, as Johnson’s familiarity with voters and established base of support ought to give him an energized base of support at the onset of his campaign.
Although Johnson has not publicly announced his intention to run for the Senate seat yet, it is abundantly clear that the Libertarian Party of New Mexico is preparing for Johnson to take up the torch behind the scenes. Furthermore, social media groups have sprung up on Facebook and Twitter suggesting that Johnson’s team is gearing up for the announcement. This preparation combined with Johnson privately confiding his interest in running indicates that in the coming days, Johnson is likely to launch a formal bid and this previously quiet Senate race will turn into one of the wildest races to watch this November.
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Featured Image (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)