FILE - In this May 18, 2016 file photo, Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks with legislators at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Johnson is considering jumping into the race for U.S. Senate in New Mexico as the current Libertarian candidate prepares to drops out, Johnson consultant Ron Nielson told The Associated Press on Friday, July 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Libertarian Party courts Gary Johnson for Senate run

August 04, 2018 - 10:44 pm

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Former New Mexico governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate Gary Johnson received a formal invitation Saturday to run for the U.S. Senate under the Libertarian Party banner.

The central committee of New Mexico's Libertarian Party offered Johnson the party's nomination as a replacement to State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who abandoned his Senate bid earlier in the week.

Johnson has two weeks to decide whether to accept. He said in a statement Saturday that he was giving serious consideration to the offer.

"A major factor is, simply, whether I can win," he said. "If I run, it will be with the intention to win, and give our state a strong, independent voice in Washington."

Johnson would compete against incumbent Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich, a construction contractor and newcomer to politics.

In 2016, Johnson won 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico as the Libertarian presidential candidate, while Hillary Clinton carried the state.

Johnson was twice elected governor as a Republican in 1994 and 1998. He hued to a small-government philosophy and advocated for legalized marijuana when it still was taboo in mainstream politics.

Johnson represents the Libertarian Party's best chance to date at winning its first Senate seat, state party Chairman Chris Luchini said.

Rich said Friday that his "commitment is stronger than ever" to his campaign.