It’s happening! Former two-time New Mexico Governor and two-time presidential candidate Gary Johnson has decided to jump into the New Mexico Senate race.

Ron Nielson, the man who ran Johnson’s presidential campaign told Matt Welch at Reason that Johnson’s candidacy is “moving forward” and “[H]e’s begun the process filing.”

The move comes after New Mexico state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn pulled out of the race after he saw that polls with Johnson faired a lot better than those with him.

Dunn said in July:

“He seems sincerely grateful that I’m offering him this opportunity. I believe he’ll accept it,” Dunn tells Reason. “With Gary taking this race over, I think this is the best thing that could happen to the Libertarian Party of New Mexico. I think that it’s going to cause an unbelievable shift in the way that people look at the Libertarian Party.”

“His poll numbers were three to four times better than what mine were,” Dunn recalled. “He was in the high twenties, and I was in the sevens….It was pretty evident that if Gary were to take on this opportunity…he has a real chance to win.”

Johnson the Governor

Johnson served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003. His first time he beat the incumbent Democrat governor Bruce King 50% to 40%. He won a second term 55% to 45%. That made Johnson the first ever governor in New Mexico to have back-to-back terms since the state introduced the two-year term limit.

Needless to say, the people of New Mexico approved of Johnson and his limited-government approach. After he left in 2003, “the size of state government had been substantially reduced and New Mexico was enjoying a large surplus.” From The Washington Times:

As governor, Mr. Johnson maintains he worked overtime to do just that, issuing an astonishing 685 vetoes in his eight years in office – more than the combined total of vetoes by the nation’s other 49 governors in those same eight years.

“Any time someone approached him about legislation for some purpose, his first response always was to ask if government should be involved in that to begin with,” said former New Mexico Republican National Committee member Mickey Barnett.

In 2001, he told Reason his biggest accomplishments as governor, which includes roads:

Reason: What do you consider your major accomplishments as governor of New Mexico?

Johnson: Building 500 miles of four-lane highway in the state. We have reduced taxes by about $123 million annually. More significantly, before my taking office there was never a set of six years in the state of New Mexico where not a single tax had gone up. We reformed Medicaid and got Medicaid costs under control. We built a couple of new, private prisons in New Mexico. We had prisoners housed out of state, and the federal court system had been running prisons in New Mexico under a consent decree since 1980. We are now out from under that consent decree. We have approximately 1,200 fewer employees in state government today than we did when I took office.

Reason: What’s the thinking behind your road building programs? Traditionally those are often pork projects.

Johnson: Economic growth occurs only if you are connected with a four-lane highway. A lot of New Mexico is rural, and building 500 miles of four-lane highway is going to make a huge economic difference to all those communities. Basically, now we have connected every town in New Mexico with 30,000 people.

To save money, we looked at private alternatives in building the roads. The highway project on Highway 44, which is Albuquerque to Farmington, is designed, financed, built, and guaranteed by a private company. This is completely unique. We are actually the first state in the United States to adopt an innovative financing program for Highway 44, by bonding federal revenues. As a result, other states are copying it, and Wall Street is embracing it.

I mention roads because as a libertarian, too many people ask me, “But who will build muh roadz?!” Well, there you go.

The New Mexico Senate Race

Democrat incumbent Senator Martin Heinrich knows Johnson poses a real threat in New Mexico because after word got out, he immediately used Johnson’s candidacy to push for more fundraising.

Republican newcomer Mick Rich believes Johnson will take votes from Heinrich and said that Johnson is “more in sync with [Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders] than he is with Republicans.”

Um, how do I libertarian, bro?! NO libertarian is in sync with Bernie Sanders. I suggest Rich educates himself on his new opponent before he says more.

But that may not help Rich. Matt Welch at Reason wrote in July:

Mick Rich, an entrepreneur turned political novice described by Santa Few New Mexican columnist Milan Simonich as a “tomato can” (Simonich argued that the GOP instead “should have sweet-talked former Gov. Gary Johnson into leaving the Siberia of the Libertarian Party to become a Republican again”), was already in pretty miserable shape before the Johnson chatter began. As of mid-May, Rich trailed Heinrich in available campaign funds, $166,000 to $3.993 million, with Dunn limping along at $7,000. A Johnson entry, speculated NM Politico’s Dax Contreras Sunday, would make it “practically impossible for Mick Rich to pull off an upset.”

The Rich campaign as of Sunday evening had not been quoted on the record about the Libertarian Party intrigue. (I’ve got a phone call in.) The New Mexican has reported without further detail that “Rich’s campaign said the Albuquerque contractor is not dropping out.”

Nielson told Reason that he has optimism about fundraising:

“There’s a lot of interest in Gary,” he said. “He had a broad sector of support from Libertarians and from interested parties nationwide, but in New Mexico he’s getting a lot of support from people. So we’re hoping that we can raise substantial sums, millions of dollars, here in the not-too-distant future.”

This news makes this libertarian ecstatic. I will obviously keep an eye on this race.