Aubrey Dunn withdraws from U.S. Senate race

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By Jill McLaughlin

Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Aubrey Dunn announced in an email to the Los Alamos Monitor Sunday his official withdrawal from the race against Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich.

Dunn, currently the state land commissioner, said his responsibilities with the land office and to the citizens of the state were the reasons for his decision.

He also encouraged the Libertarian Party’s central committee to nominate former presidential candidate and governor Gary Johnson to replace him.

“My first responsibility has to be to our citizens to take care of our state trust lands, and right now, challenges such as the water crisis in southeastern New Mexico demand my full attention,” Dunn said. “I was elected to do a job by the citizens on the promise that I would manage their lands through true conservation principles, I have done that thus far, but my promise requires that I finish the job I was elected to do as strongly as I can.

“After much contemplation with my family and supporters, I believe I need to focus on my job as Land Commissioner for the remainder of my term,” Dunn said in a written statement.

Johnson’s consultant, Ron Nielson, told The Associated Press Friday that the former governor was “strongly considering” running if Dunn quite the race.

Johnson garnered 3 percent of the vote against President Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

In 2017, Dunn announced he would not run for re-election as state land commissioner but instead run for Congress to fill the southern congressional district seat the Rep. Steve Pearce, CD-2, was leaving to run for governor. But in a surprise move, Dunn withdrew from that race in early October 2017.

He did not give a reason for withdrawing from crowded race filled with candidates from rival factions of the party. Later, he told the Santa Fe New Mexican that he was “on the outside” of the Republican Party. The Libertarian Party recruited Dunn to run for U.S. Senate in January. Dunn was elected in 2016 as a Republican.

During Dunn’s time as state land commissioner, he has ruffled feathers among several groups in the state, including the oil and gas industry. Recently, he imposed restrictions on pumping fresh water from the Ogallala Aquifer, raising the ire of industry rank and file members. Dunn has also continued his ongoing feud with Gov. Susana Martinez. His latest scrap with the governor was over how to operate the State Investment Council and whether he would sign an agreement on the privacy of certain meetings.

Conservation was a centerpiece of Dunn’s recent campaign efforts.

“Aubrey firmly believes that New Mexico’s success is tied to making sure that the oil and gas industry, along with other users of State Trust Lands in New Mexico, are successful, but that success must not come at the price of damaging natural resources so that they are not available for future generations,” his son and campaign manager, A. Blair Dunn said in a release sent Sunday.

“New Mexico’s most valuable resource is our water and I am dedicated to finding responsible solutions that protect that resource while allowing for maximum revenue to be generated for the beneficiaries of the trust: Our citizens. “This 2018 election is vital for New Mexico,” Aubrey Dunn said, “with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., while I am withdrawing from the race, New Mexico still desperately needs a voice in a powerful position in the United States Senate, which is why I am calling upon Governor Gary Johnson to replace me as the Libertarian candidate for United States Senate.”

Republican nominee Rich commented on Dunn's withdrawal from the race.

"Aubrey Dunn and I both want the best for New Mexico's future. We both believe our state's future depends on creating good-paying jobs that support families,” Rich said. "To beat the progressive liberal senator, Martin Heinrich, New Mexico's Republicans, Libertarians, independents and moderates must come together and show our strength by turning out to vote on Nov. 6.”

Aubrey Dunn’s term as state land commissioner ends at the end of 2018. He and his wife of 39 years, Robin, have three children and three grandchildren. They currently own and operate the Gran Quivira Ranch near Corona.