GOP taps candidate for secretary of state after primary winner drops out over lawsuits

Gavin Clarkson

Members of the New Mexico Republican Party’s State Central Committee voted by secret ballot Saturday to choose Gavin Clarkson, a Las Cruces college professor, as the GOP candidate for secretary of state.

Clarkson’s name will appear on ballots in the November general election in place of previous GOP nominee JoHanna Cox, a lawyer who dropped out of the secretary of state’s race last month, citing the need to commit more time to her family. Her announcement, about a week after the June primary election, in which she faced no opponent, also came amid mounting lawsuits accusing her of legal malpractice.

Clarkson, 49, placed third in the June Republican primary in a four-way race for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Steve Pearce, who is the GOP nominee for governor. The winner of the primary was state Rep. Yvette Herrell, 54, of Alamogordo.

An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, Clarkson served as deputy assistant secretary in President Donald Trump’s U.S. Interior Department. He resigned in late 2017, however, after the department’s inspector general released a report critical of a tribal loan program he had run.

Clarkson recently filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against New Mexico State University, saying officials unfairly fired him from his position as an associate professor in the College of Business when he started his congressional campaign. The suit alleges racial and religious discrimination because he is a pro-life Christian and a tribal member.

Clarkson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rice University and both a doctorate in business and a law degree from Harvard University.

He will run for secretary of state against Democratic incumbent Toulouse Oliver and Libertarian candidate Sandra Jeff.

The secretary of state is New Mexico’s chief elections officer.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

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