State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn Jr., who recently changed his voting registration from Republican to Libertarian, filed to run for U.S. Senate on Tuesday against incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican building contractor Mick Rich.
Dunn, who won the land commissioner race four years ago, is one of an entire slate of Libertarians who filed for congressional and state offices on Tuesday. Dunn’s son, A. Blair Dunn, is running for attorney general, while other Libertarians are running for secretary of state, land commissioner and two of New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Secretary of State’s Office last week designated the Libertarian Party as a major party in New Mexico. The party won that right after former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s relatively strong showing in the 2016 presidential election in this state. Johnson, who was a Republican when he was governor between 1995 and 2002, got about 9.3 percent of the vote in the state, which is the best a third party has done here since independent presidential candidate Ross Perot won 16 percent of the state’s vote in 1992.
Although Libertarians appeal to some on the left because of the party’s liberal views on social issues such as marijuana, abortion rights and gay rights, they tend to hurt Republicans because of their strong views on easing regulations, lowering taxes and shrinking government. The emergence of an active Libertarian Party in the state raises the question of whether GOP candidates will suffer.
“I think I’ll pull equally from both my opponents,” Dunn said Tuesday. “Progressives in this state have made strides in taking over the Democratic Party, leaving many conservative Democrats behind.”
He said he doesn’t believe Rich, who has never run for office before and lacks name recognition, will be much of a factor in the Senate race.
“This is a winnable race for Libertarians,” he said, pointing to a recent poll that showed Heinrich with an approval rate of less than 50 percent. That poll, by Morning Consult, showed 46 percent approving of Heinrich’s job performance and 29 percent disapproving. The rest didn’t know or wouldn’t say what they thought of his performance.
Asked whether he thought Dunn would hurt his chances, Rich, through a spokesman, released this statement: “It is clear to me that Mr. Dunn has been looking around for what to run for next, when his Congressional race flamed out in the matter of minutes, it was on to the next one. This time, he chose to run for a different seat. This is typical career politician behavior, we have way too many career politicians in Washington as it is.”
He was referring to the fact that Dunn last year announced he’d run — as a Republican — for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who on Monday was the only Republican to file for governor. But a couple of months later Dunn dropped out of the race. Dunn, who as land commissioner sometimes has clashed with the oil and gas industry, later told The New Mexican, “I wasn’t Republican enough to win the primary.”
Dunn on Tuesday denied he was a “career politician,” saying, “I’ve only held one office, the one I’m in now.”
Heinrich is seeking his second term in the Senate.
Another Republican candidate facing a Libertarian as well as a Democrat in the general election, is Patrick Lyons. Lyons, who currently is a member of the state Public Regulation Commission, is a former two-term land commissioner.
Lyons said his Libertarian opponent, Michael Lucero, of Cañon, “will pull votes from me from real conservative libertarian Republicans. But he’ll also pull Hispanic votes from the Democrats.”
Asked about the effect of the Libertarians on Republicans in general, Lyons said, “It’s a good party. But it won’t affect us much.”
Three Democrats are running for land commissioner. They are State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos, Garrett VeneKlasen, on leave as executive director of New Mexico Wildlife Federation and state Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup.
Besides Dunn, the best-known Libertarian candidate to file Tuesday was former state Rep. Sandra Jeff, who is running for secretary of state against incumbent Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Republican JoHanna Cox. Jeff is a former Democrat from Crownpoint. She often sided with Republicans during her three terms in the state House.
Libertarians will have no effect on the governor’s race because they did not field a candidate. Besides Republican Pearce, four Democrats are running. Libertarians also do not have candidates for the 2nd Congressional District, lieutenant governor, state auditor, state treasurer or any of the five positions up for election on the state Court of Appeals.
Here are the candidates who filed on Tuesday for all state and congressional offices.
Mick Rich (Republican)
Martin Heinrich (Democrat)
Aubrey Dunn (Libertarian)
1st Congressional District:
Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez (D); Damon Martinez (D); Debra Haaland (D); Damian Lara (D); Patrick Davis (D); Paul Moya (D)
Janice Arnold-Jones (R)
Lloyd Princeton (L)
2nd Congressional District
Monty Newman (R); Yvette Herrell (R); Gavin Clarkson (R); Clayburn Griffin (R); Jack Volpato, Jr. (R)
Madeline Hildebrandt (D); Xochitl Torres Small (D); Angel Pena
3rd Congressional District
Jerald Steve McFall (R)
Ben Ray Luján (D)
Christopher Manning (L)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D); Jeff Apodaca (D); Peter DeBenedittis (D); Joseph Cervantes (D)
Steve Pearce (R)
Rick Miera (D); Jeff Carr (D); Billy Garrett (D); Javier Gonzales (D); Howie Morales (D)
Michelle Garcia Holmes (R)
Hector Balderas (D)
Michael Eugene Hendricks (R)
A. Blair Dunn (L)
Secretary of State
JoHanna Cox (R)
Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D)
Sandra Jeff (L)
Bill McCamley (D); Brian Colón (D)
Wayne Johnson (R)
Arthur Castillo (R)
Tim Eichenberg (D)
Stephanie Garcia Richard (D); Garrett VeneKlasen (D); George Muñoz (D)
Patrick Lyons (R)
Michael Lucero (L)
Court of Appeals Judge
Stephen French (R)
Kristina Bogardus (D)
Hank Bohnhoff (R)
Jacqueline Medina (D)
Emil Kiehne (R)
Briana Zamora (D)
Megan Duffy (D)
Daniel Jose Gallegos (R)
Jennifer Attrep (D) (unopposed in primary and general election)
Contact Steve Terrell at 505-986-3037 or email@example.com. Read his blog at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/roundhouse_roundup.