Following the 2016 presidential election in which Gary Johnson obtained 9.3 percent of the vote in New Mexico, the Libertarian Party in the state has obtained major party status for 2018 elections, allowing candidates to run under the party ticket without facing the typically mountainous signature-collecting obstructions that usually hamstring third-party candidates. Consequently, the newly-strengthened party has picked up two noteworthy free agents from the Republican and Democratic parties.

Current New Mexico state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, one of a sparse number of Republicans capable of winning a state-wide race in the state in recent years, switched his registration to the Libertarian Party last month. According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, Dunn’s office manages 9 million surface acres and 13 million mineral acres of trust land, the proceeds of which help fund education in the state, and he has recently locked horns with Republican Governor Susana Martinez in disagreement over the use of the State Investment Council, which may explain his exodus from the party.

Meanwhile, The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that Dunn is planning to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator from New Mexico Martin Heinrich in this year’s election, with a filing deadline approaching on February 6.

Dunn’s son, ex-Republican attorney A. Blair Dunn, is also launching a bid for New Mexico attorney general under the Libertarian Party brand. “We’re in it to run to win. It’s a lot easier if we have credible candidates for New Mexicans to come to the middle and find us,” said A. Blair Dunn.

Speaking of which, former Democratic state Rep. Sandra Jeff recently switched her party affiliation to Libertarian and is vying for secretary of state. The Las Cruces Sun-News notes that during Jeff’s three terms in the state legislature, she often broke party ranks and voted with Republicans on the floor.

New Mexico libertarians also currently have options in two congressional races. Candidates Grady Owens and Chris Manning are running in the second and third congressional districts respectively.

As of last count in November 2017, 7,261 New Mexicans have registered under the Libertarian Party, representing under 1 percent of registered voters. The party has announced an organizational convention on March 3.

The last time a third-party obtained major-party status in an election in New Mexico was in 1994 when the Green Party achieved 10 percent in a failed bid to challenge then-Republican Gary Johnson in the state’s gubernatorial race.

Former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has indicated that he plans to campaign for New Mexico Libertarian Party candidates in upcoming elections.

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