UPDATE — 8/15, 9:23 a.m. EDT: Former New Mexico governor and 2016 presidential candidate Gary Johnson will publicly announce his run for the Land of Enchantment’s U.S. Senate on the Libertarian Party ticket in the near-future, according to an Associated Press report.
A list of the state’s 2018 candidates for public office shows Johnson filed paperwork for his candidacy Tuesday morning.
“Here’s a guy who vetoed close to 900 bills and simply would not accept any increase in the size and scope of government,” said GOP strategist Rod Adair about Johnson’s gubernatorial tenure. “That seems to be right in the wheelhouse of measurable disgust with both the left and the right. He may be the perfect third-party option right now.”
With 100 days remaining before the 2018 mid-term elections, former 2016 presidential candidate Gary Johnson is mulling a return to politics by entering New Mexico’s race for the U.S. Senate.
If Johnson decides to seek the seat held by Democrat Mark Heinrich, he will become the Libertarian Party’s candidate.
“If the opportunity arises to run for the Senate, I will give it serious consideration. To be clear, though, I will not run unless I believe I can win,” Johnson told the Albuquerque Journal.
Despite a commitment not to run for public office again after his 2016 election loss, Johnson is considering a run for the Senate after Aubrey Dunn Jr., New Mexico’s current land commissioner, dropped his election bid.
In abandoning his campaign, Dunn cited a lack of political skills and said Johnson would stand a better chance at defeating incumbent Heinrich and GOP challenger, Mark Rich.
“To be honest, I’m not that great of a politician,” Dunn said in a Monday interview.
A former construction business owner and marijuana company CEO, Johnson served as governor of New Mexico for two terms as a Republican in a state dominated by Democrats.
As governor, Johnson pushed for a raft of tax cuts, including reductions on state income, gas, and prescription drugs, achieving only a cut in the gas tax. However, his most significant achievement as governor was reductions in overall state spending and slowing the growth of the state’s annual budget.
Reelected in 1998, Johnson’s second term saw further reductions in the state budget, a call for the legalization of marijuana, and a school voucher program. Johnson left the governor’s mansion in 2003 with budget surpluses.
While governing The Land of Enchantment for two terms, Johnson earned the sobriquet “Governor No” for his reflexive use of the power to veto bills from a Democratic-controlled state assembly. Johnson vetoed over 700 bills between 1995 and 2003.
Departing the GOP in 2011, Johnson sought and earned the Libertarian Party nomination for president in 2012 and 2016.
Considered a spoiler in the 2016 presidential election, Johnson appeared on ballots in all 50 states and selected former Massachusetts governor, William Weld, as his running mate.
Despite some interest in his candidacy, Johnson’s bid for the White House did not meet the 15 percent threshold in national polls to qualify for presidential debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Along with Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Johnson sued the commission over alleged antitrust violations. The suit was later dismissed.
As a presidential candidate in 2016, Johnson earned 4.4 million votes, over three percent of the popular vote nationwide.
Should he enter the 2018 Senate race, a decision which will ultimately be made by New Mexico’s Libertarian Party, Johnson would follow 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is seeking the Senate seat in Utah vacated by the retirement of Orrin Hatch.
[Albuquerque Journal] [Santa Fe New Mexican] [Photo courtesy AP via Politico]