1994 New Mexico gubernatorial election

← 1990 November 8, 1994 1998 →
Nominee Gary Johnson Bruce King Roberto Mondragón
Party Republican Democratic Green
Running mate Walter Bradley Patricia Madrid Steven Schmidt
Popular vote 232,945 186,686 47,990
Percentage 49.8% 39.9% 10.3%

County results
Johnson:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%
King:      40–50%      50–60%

Governor before election

Bruce King

Elected Governor

Gary Johnson

The 1994 New Mexico gubernatorial election was held on November 8, 1994, for the four-year term beginning on January 1, 1995. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor ran on a ticket as running mates.

Incumbent Democrat Bruce King ran for a fourth term with Patricia Madrid as a running mate, losing to Republican nominees Gary Johnson, a businessman, and Walter Bradley, a former state senator. Former Lieutenant Governor Roberto Mondragón ran with Steven Schmidt as the nominees of the Green Party, receiving 10.4 percent of the vote.

The election was marked by the surprising rise of Republican Gary Johnson, the 41-year-old owner of one of the state's largest construction companies. Johnson, who had never before held elected office, upset a crowded Republican primary field by a margin of less than 1,300 votes. With the state's non-Republicans split between the centrist King and progressive Mondragón, King failed to gain a majority and Johnson won the election with 49.8% of the vote.[1]

Democratic Party

King faced a tough renomination campaign, being challenged by incumbent Lieutenant Governor Casey Luna, who had a falling out with King in 1993 over King's refusal to give Luna a larger role in King's administration.[2] Former New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Jim Baca also challenged King.


Primary Results

June 7, 1994 Democratic primary results[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Bruce King (incumbent) 76,039 38.8
Democratic Casey E. Luna 71,364 36.5
Democratic Jim Baca 48,401 24.7
Total votes 195,804 100

Republican Party


Primary Results

June 7, 1994 Republican primary results[3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Gary Johnson 32,091 34.5
Republican Dick Cheney 30,811 33.1
Republican John Dendahl 18,007 19.4
Republican David F. Cargo 12,105 13.0
Republican Keith Russell Judd (write-in) 57 0.1
Total votes 93,071 100

Green Party



Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
King (D)
Johnson (R)
Other Undecided
Santa Fe New Mexican November 3, 1994 34% 46%
Albuquerque Journal October 23, 1994 35% 40%


Bruce King, the Democratic three-term incumbent, began the general election with the most funding and name recognition.[citation needed] King was a career politician who had first been elected to the Santa Fe County Commission in 1954, when Gary Johnson was just one year old.[4] King also had the support of the Gold Boot Club, a business-backed political coalition that channeled thousands of dollars to his campaign.[5]

King's quest for an unprecedented fourth term faced obstacles from the left and the right. From the left, King was challenged by Green Party nominee Roberto Mondragón. Mondragón was a populist former Democrat, who had served as Lieutenant Governor from 1971 to 1975 and in the state House from 1979 to 1983.[citation needed] Mondragón had a knack for appealing to both progressive whites and working-class Hispanics, and attacked King for his cushy relationships with big business.[5]

Gary Johnson was the nominee of New Mexico's Republican Party, a statewide party that had won just one gubernatorial election since 1970. Johnson faced the challenge of keeping together his Republican base while appealing to independents and Democrats frustrated with King. Johnson campaigned as a political outsider and self-made entrepreneur.[citation needed] In college, Johnson had worked as a door-to-door handyman, a business that gradually expanded into Big J Enterprises. By 1999, the company employed over 1,000 people and was worth several million dollars.[6] Johnson avoided then-divisive social issues like abortion and gay rights, and focused his campaign on pocketbook issues like taxes and the state budget. Johnson touted his experience in the business world of balancing budgets while growing his company, and promised to bring that experience to state government.[7]

In November, Gary Johnson won the election with just under 50% of the vote, while King got almost 40% and Mondragón pulled in just over 10%.

Election results

New Mexico gubernatorial election, 1994[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Gary Johnson 232,945 49.8% +4.7%
Democratic Bruce King (incumbent) 186,686 39.9% -14.7%
Green Roberto Mondragón 47,990 10.3%
Plurality 46,259 9.9% +0.4%
Turnout 467,621
Republican gain from Democratic Swing


  1. ^ Birnbaum, Ben (August 12, 2016). "Gary Johnson Has a Plan". Politico Magazine. ISSN 2381-1595.
  2. ^ "Luna Won't Take Sides in the Race". Santa Fe New Mexican. October 25, 1994. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Canvass of Returns of Primary Election Held on June 7, 1994 – State of New Mexico" (PDF). New Mexico Secretary of State. June 28, 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 1, 2017. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  4. ^ Terrell, Steve (January 14, 2020). "After big loss, experts doubt King will run for office again". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved May 10, 2021. Bruce King began his political career in 1954 when he won a seat on the Santa Fe County Commission.
  5. ^ a b Kurtz, Josh (October 26, 1994). "The Liberals' Dilemma: Choose Your Poison". The Santa Fe Reporter. p. 33 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ Marciello, Alex (February 25, 2011). "Former NM governor talks politics". The Daily News of Newburyport. Retrieved May 10, 2021. Prior to that, he was the CEO and founder of Big J Enterprises, a business that grew out of his door-to-door work as a handyman during college. By the time he sold the company in 1999, it had more than 1,000 employees and was a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
  7. ^ Lyman, Andy (April 20, 2016). "How Gary Johnson went from 'Governor No' to third party icon". New Mexico Political Report.
  8. ^ "Canvass of Returns of General Election Held on November 8, 1994 – State of New Mexico" (PDF). New Mexico Secretary of State. November 29, 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 14, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2021.

See also