Trailing in polls, Libertarian candidate for governor expects to 'make a statement'
With early voting underway in the midterm elections, and Election Day fast approaching, the race for governor remains competitive between Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti. While Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie is polling in the single digits, and didn’t appear in either televised debate, if she pulls enough votes from the major candidates, her support could affect the election’s results.
At Coronado Mall in Albuquerque, Bedonie said she’d been enjoying being “among the people” for an afternoon amid a busy campaign. She asked to meet outside the mall’s bookstore because she’s a big reader.
“It's always non-fiction because I want to know the truth about things and perspectives,” she said. “Especially with history, American history — how it ties into Native American history.”
Bedonie is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and lives on the New Mexico portion of the reservation. She says the difficulty of providing for her eight children is what pushed her into politics.
“Our family is the most important thing in my life, and that's what really put me on the political trail because politics began to impact our lives when we couldn't make enough money,” she said. “So then I started to branch out into small business, trying to supplement, and that's when I ran into politics head on — the red tape that stops you, the one that taxes you to death.”
She started out studying engineering at Northern Arizona University. But it was high pressure, and she says there were liberal studies prerequisites that taught ideas she didn't support, including theories about gender. So, she decided to take a vocational path instead.
“I ended up going into construction technology and I became a supervisor. So, I was building homes in the early 2000’s,” she said. “And we already own our own plumbing company, me and my husband. We've been building it from the ground up.”
When asked what message she’s trying to get out to voters ahead of the Nov. 8 election, she said it’s that she’s the option on the ballot that “is the pure representation of New Mexico.”
“I am about oil and gas. I'm about the agriculture. I'm about creating jobs,” she said. “We need to stop depending on the government and supplements. But then we need to start enriching and creating generational wealth.”
She said it was those economic ideas, as well as the fact that she is conservative on social issues like opposing abortion access, that made her gravitate toward the Republican Party. She initially tried to run for Governor as a Republican, but said she faced opposition from the party itself.
“They were going to do whatever they could to make sure I didn't make it through into the primaries,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, why do I keep fighting this?’ And so I thought about it and I thought, ‘Okay, there's three major parties in New Mexico, and the Libertarians don't have a candidate.’”
Bedonie bases her skepticism on her own personal observations. When asked if she believes Joe Biden rightfully won the 2020 presidential election, she said no.
“No, because we were on the ground campaigning and — you know what —we didn't see any Biden very much of anything,” she said. “He didn't even campaign. He didn't even have a team on the ground.”
She also said that she believes that Dominion vote-counting machines are not certified correctly and that she witnessed ballot harvesting in 2020, echoing widely disseminated fraud theories that have been debunked by the New Mexico Secretary of State.
Bedonie is also not vaccinated against COVID-19, believing the vaccine causes strokes among other ailments. While recent clinical studies published inthe eClinicalMedicine journal and British Medical Journal have shown an increased risk of certain strokes after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, the risk is actually substantially higher for those who come down with a COVID infection. Bedonie was hospitalized with the virus herself and fought to be treated with Ivermectin, which the FDA has not authorized for use against the virus andis not shown to be effective.
One of the highest profile moments in her campaign came when a Republican party official filed an ethics complaint, alleging that her campaign illegally coordinated with a group not registered with the state’s campaign finance system that paid for a billboard in support of her. She denies the accusation.
Though recent polls have her garnering the support of between three and seven percent of likely voters, she says she’s determined to keep campaigning.
“The polls aren't necessarily accurate,” she said. “On the ground, you got people flying flags. You have so many people out there that, yeah, I'm seeing an actual difference between the polls and what's really happening in reality.”
While elections do bring surprises, a Bedonie win is far-fetched. But that doesn't mean her run doesn't matter, as any votes she’s able to win could make an impact on the election overall.
“Yeah, we’re going to make an actual statement in New Mexico,” she said. “And I think the people are ready for that.”
The Your New Mexico Government project is a collaboration between KUNM and New Mexico PBS with support from the Thornburg Foundation.