2016 Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has entered the New Mexico Senate race, throwing a curveball into a contest that was deemed safe for Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich.
Johnson, who served two terms from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican governor of the state, tweeted on Tuesday that “New Mexico deserves a strong, independent voice in the U.S. Senate,” accompanied by a campaign video put together by Elect Liberty PAC.
In the video, Johnson’s gubernatorial accomplishments are described in detail as well as his climb up Mount Everest. “He’s fiscally conservative and socially cool,” the video says over a stock-sounding bass thrum.
Johnson did not respond to a message from The Daily Beast about his run, and neither did the affiliated PAC. But his name now appears on the state’s list of eligible Senate candidates. The Libertarian Party offered him their nomination over a week ago to replace State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who dropped out.
Immediately after the announcement was finalized, Heinrich raised the alarm bells in a tweet saying, “Our race has changed.”
“New Mexicans want someone who has fought for them each and every day, and that’s why I'm running on my record and my vision for our state," the Democratic senator said in a statement to The Daily Beast My priority is building an economy of the future that supports working families, small businesses, and rural communities so we can create opportunity in every part of the state.”
The campaign also pointed to a recent poll showing Heinrich easily defeating both his Republican opponent Mick Rich and Johnson. They also pointed to previous comments in which Johnson said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, proposed cutting Medicaid and Medicare, and would not support minimum-wage increases.
Johnson, who ran for president as a Republican in 2012, became best-known as a potential spoiler for Democrats in the 2016 presidential contest—he received nearly 4.5 million votes, the most of any Libertarian nominee in history.
He had previously said after the presidential election that he would not seek office again.