ALBUQUERQUE – The Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate announced Monday that he is quitting the race, opening the door for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and creating uncertainty in a race that Democrats considered safe.
In a statement, Aubrey Dunn said he wanted to focus on his job as state land commissioner and that a water crisis in southeastern New Mexico demanded his attention.
“After much contemplation with my family and supporters, I believe I need to focus on my job as land commissioner for the remainder of my term,” said Dunn, who was elected in 2014 as a Republican and will serve until the end of the year.
In his announcement, Dunn called upon Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2016, to take his place.
“I have spoken with Gov. Johnson, he is willing to consider serving as my replacement as the Libertarian nominee and I respectfully request that our Libertarian Party State Central Committee nominate him as the replacement candidate,” Dunn said.
Johnson consultant Ron Nielson told The Associated Press on Friday that the former governor was “strongly considering” running if Dunn quit the race.
In the 2016 presidential election, Johnson garnered 3 percent of the vote against Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state.
If he enters the Senate race, Johnson, 65, would face incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, and Republican Mick Rich in November.
Democrats had felt Heinrich would have an easy path to re-election. Rich, an Albuquerque contractor, is making his first run for elected office.
During the presidential campaign, Johnson vowed to cut military spending, raising eyebrows in New Mexico, which relies on its three military bases to help offset its status as one of the poorest states in the nation.
As governor from 1995 to 2003, Johnson was known for vetoing bill after bill before he became a national curiosity for advocating legal marijuana.
This article provided by NewsEdge.