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Libertarian recount fails to qualify governor hopeful

July 14, 2018

The Libertarian Party of New Mexico will likely not have a gubernatorial candidate on the ballot this November after all.

A recount of Libertarian primary results from eight counties did not produce enough additional write-in votes for Bob Walsh, the Libertarians’ would-be governor candidate, according to unofficial results.

Without a Libertarian on the ballot, the Nov. 6 election to succeed term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez will be of the more traditional two-party variety: Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of Albuquerque against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs, who won nominations last month.

Walsh, a retired mathematician, and the would-be lieutenant governor candidate, Robin Dunn, each needed 230 Libertarians to write in their names in the June primary to win the Libertarian nomination and ensure a place on the ballot.

Both fell short, and the party requested a recount earlier this month, arguing that some of its voters’ choices might not have been counted because they had not filled in a scannable bubble next to the line for write-in candidates.

But, according to unofficial results posted to the Secretary of State’s website, the recount did not lift either Walsh or Dunn across the 230-vote threshold.

Both needed roughly 50 additional votes; unofficial results show Walsh picked up 11 votes, Dunn 13.

Walsh said Friday he was evaluating a possible challenge to the 230-vote write-in rule. He explained various arguments he said he could explore.

“If they fail to certify the nomination, there’s now no way to get a Libertarian ticket on the ballot,” he said. “People who wanted the Libertarian are disenfranchised.”

The state canvassing board is scheduled to reconvene Wednesday to certify the results of the recount.

“Obviously we are disappointed this didn’t prevail,” said Chris Luchini, chair of the state Libertarian Party and himself a Libertarian candidate for sheriff of Los Alamos County.

The party has obtained affidavits from close to 30 registered Libertarians who said they were turned away from polling places because, the would-be voters claim, poll workers did not believe they were allowed to vote in New Mexico’s closed primaries, Luchini said.

“It would not have affected the outcome of this” recount, however, he added.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said there was no basis for the claim that some voters were suppressed and said no complaints had been filed.

“Losing an election or not making the ballot doesn’t automatically mean voter suppression took place,” spokesman Joey Keefe said in a statement.

The June contest was the Libertarian Party’s first primary as a major party in New Mexico, a result of former Gov. Gary Johnson earning 9 percent of the state’s vote in the 2016 presidential contest. The major party designation is intended to simplify the qualification process for candidates of that party.

Whether the Libertarians will retain that status alongside Democrats and Republicans without a candidate for governor remains to be seen.

According to state law, a party must earn more than 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in a race for either governor or president to keep its major-party status. But some Libertarians contend the party could also retain the status with 5 percent of the vote in any statewide race.

“That will be litigated,” Luchini said.

There are Libertarians who qualified in several statewide races this year.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who switched from the Republican Party, is challenging U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, as Heinrich seeks re-election to a second six-year term.

Sandra Jeff, a former state House representative, is the party’s nominee for secretary of state. A. Blair Dunn, an attorney and the son of Aubrey and Robin Dunn, is running for attorney general. There is a Libertarian candidate, Michael Lucero, seeking the open state land commissioner’s post.

Elsewhere in Libertarian New Mexico, Lloyd Princeton, a business consultant, is seeking the Albuquerque U.S. House seat being vacated by Lujan Grisham.

Chris Manning, a veteran, is one of two challengers to U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján in the Northern New Mexico Congressional district.

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