Gavin Clarkson, a professor from Las Cruces, won the Republican nomination for secretary of state on Saturday after vowing to make job creation a centerpiece of his campaign.
Clarkson replaces the previous Republican nominee, JoHanna Cox, an attorney who withdrew from the race last month, citing family reasons.
Members of the Republican Party’s State Central Committee, voting by secret ballot, chose Clarkson on Saturday to replace Cox on the ballot. Clarkson defeated Edwin “Ed” J. Begay, a former Navajo Nation chapter president in Tohatchi and former board chairman for the University of New Mexico branch in Gallup.
Clarkson pitched himself as a candidate in position to begin campaigning right away, following his third-place finish in the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District.
“I have a campaign sitting on the shelf,” he said, noting that he could transfer money from his congressional account into his state race.
The secretary of state serves as New Mexico’s chief election officer, but Clarkson said the office also has a corporations division that handles the filing and maintenance of certain corporate records.
His background in business law, he said, makes him a natural fit for the office. He said he would work to make it easier to create a business in New Mexico.
“Small business corporations are the engine of job creation,” Clarkson said.
His nomination sets up a three-way race with the Democratic incumbent, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and Libertarian Sandra Jeff, a former state representative.
Clarkson is embroiled in a dispute with New Mexico State University, which he says fired him from its business school after he announced his congressional campaign. In a wrongful-termination lawsuit, he alleges racial and religious discrimination, because he is a conservative pro-life Christian and a member of the Choctaw tribe.
At one point, he had taken leave to serve in the U.S. Interior Department under President Trump as a deputy assistant secretary.
Clarkson has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rice University and a doctorate and a law degree from Harvard University.
“I’m dangerously overeducated,” he joked to the crowd during Saturday’s meeting.
Cox, the previous GOP nominee for secretary of state, left the race after the Journal reported that she had faced three legal malpractice lawsuits in five years. In court records, Cox denied that she was negligent in representing clients.