SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Former New Mexico governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate Gary Johnson received a formal invitation Saturday to run for the U.S. Senate under the Libertarian Party banner.

The central committee of New Mexico's Libertarian Party offered Johnson the party's nomination as a replacement to State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who abandoned his Senate bid earlier in the week.

Johnson has two weeks to decide whether to accept. He said in a statement Saturday that he was giving serious consideration to the offer.

"A major factor is, simply, whether I can win," he said. "If I run, it will be with the intention to win, and give our state a strong, independent voice in Washington."

[photo Russell Contreras, AP]

Johnson would compete against incumbent Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich, a construction contractor and newcomer to politics.

In 2016, Johnson won 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico as the Libertarian presidential candidate, while Hillary Clinton carried the state.

Johnson was twice elected governor as a Republican in 1994 and 1998. He hued to a small-government philosophy and advocated for legalized marijuana when it still was taboo in mainstream politics.

Johnson represents the Libertarian Party's best chance to date at winning its first Senate seat, state party Chairman Chris Luchini said.

Rich said Friday that his "commitment is stronger than ever" to his campaign.

[cover photo Rick Bowmer, AP]