Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson poses for a portrait at his election night party Tuesday in Albuquerque. Juan Labreche/The Associated Press
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was happy to learn that so many Libertarians filed Tuesday to run for office in New Mexico. And, in a telephone interview Wednesday morning, Johnson told me it could be a good year for the party in this state partly because of one huge factor.
"Donald Trump is toxic in New Mexico," said Johnson, a former Republican who was the national Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 2016 and 2012. "If you’re a Republican in New Mexico, Trump is going to be a lot of baggage for you."
His words were similar to something that state Land Commissioner Audrey Dunn, Jr. told my colleague Andrew Oxford in December: “The anti-Trump wave is going to be so strong, I don’t think Steve Pearce has a chance,” Dunn said, referring to GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce.
Dunn, who just recently switched parties from Republican to Libertarian, filed Tuesday to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican challenger Mick Rich. Dunn’s son A. Blair Dunn — who helped run Johnson’s New Mexico campaign — is running for attorney general on the Libertarian ticket. Libertarians also fielded candidates for two of the state’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives plus secretary of state and land commissioner.
Johnson did seem disappointed when told the party didn’t field a candidate for governor.
His relatively strong showing in New Mexico in 2016 is the reason that the Secretary of State’s Office last week designated the Libertarian Party as a major party in the state. The former governor got about 9.3 percent of the vote here, which is the best a third party has done in New Mexco since independent presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1992.
Johnson said a strong Libertarian showing will only be possible if the candidates aren’t excluded from debates and forums. That’s a battle he fought — unsuccessfully — as a third-party candidate in 2016 and 2012.
"Like I’ve said before, I think the public will be receptive to candidates who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal," Johnson said.