SANTA FE – For the second consecutive statewide election cycle, New Mexico will have three major political parties.
That’s because the state Libertarian Party was determined to have met the minimum requirements – by the narrowest of margins – to retain its major party status, along with the Democratic and Republican parties.
Although the Libertarian Party did not run a candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial race – the race at the top of that year’s general election ballot – its candidates for land commissioner and secretary of state got slightly more than 5% of the total votes cast in those races.
Those performances, along with the total number of registered Libertarian Party voters, were sufficient for the party to keep major party status for the 2020 election cycle, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver wrote in a Monday letter to the party’s chairman, Chris Luchini.
“Although the Libertarian Party did not have a candidate in the 2018 New Mexico gubernatorial election, it met this requirement because it did have party candidates that met the 5% threshold of votes for a statewide position,” Toulouse Oliver wrote in her letter.
The major party designation became official with Toulouse Oliver’s signing of the 2020 election proclamation Monday.
Major party status gives a party an easier path to get its candidates on the ballot, as minor parties face daunting signature requirements to land on the ballot.
“Like most states, New Mexico does its best to disadvantage anyone who’s not on Team Red or Team Blue,” Luchini told the Journal.
He also said the Libertarian Party already has a candidate lined up for this year’s race for the open U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Tom Udall, who is not seeking reelection, and has two possible candidates for the state Supreme Court seats.
The party is also trying to line up candidates for legislative and county-level races, Luchini said.
In addition, the Libertarian Party will hold its pre-primary convention March 6-7, and will host a debate for Libertarian presidential candidates on April 26 in Albuquerque, Luchini said.
Despite retaining major party status, the party still faces a daunting challenge in this year’s election cycle, as there were only 11,296 registered Libertarians statewide as of Monday – or roughly 1% of the state’s total registered voters.
Libertarians won major party status after the 2016 general election, due to the performance of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in that year’s presidential election.
Johnson, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, surpassed 5% of the popular vote – he actually got 9.3% of the vote – in his home state.