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Gary Johnson speaks of upcoming Kavanaugh testimony

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Former New Mexico governor and U.S. Senate candidate Gary Johnson has backed off his earlier support of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying he wants to hear the testimony of a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh 36 years ago.

“A week ago, I would have voted yes for Kavanaugh, and right now, you know what? I have an open mind about this upcoming testimony,” Johnson said Saturday during a campaign event in Roswell.

Kavanaugh, a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge tapped by President Donald Trump to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, has been accused by three women of sexual assault.

Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford – a California psychology professor who claimed Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a party in 1982 when the two were teenagers — are both scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Johnson, who faces incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich in November’s U.S. Senate race in New Mexico, said Saturday Ford’s allegations are “very serious.”

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Johnson, who has throughout his campaign portrayed himself as someone not beholden to either party, said Saturday he is just the person people should want in the U.S. Senate: someone willing to listen to both Kavanaugh and Ford.

Johnson’s comments came before two other women came forward with allegations that Kavanaugh assaulted them. Deborah Ramirez in a story published in the New Yorker magazine this Sunday said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and forced her to touch his private parts at a party when the two were students at Yale in the 1980s.

Another woman Julie Swetnick, came forward providing a sworn declaration to the committee. In the declaration she states that she witnessed Kavanaugh “consistently engage in excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women in the early 1980s.”

Kavanaugh has also denied the allegations made by Swetnick and Ramirez.

Heinrich, who came out in opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination before the allegations were made, in a tweet Wednesday, called on Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to suspend their proceedings and for more time to be taken to look into the allegations made against Kavanaugh.

“Given the seriousness of these sexual assault allegations, I call on Senate Republicans to halt the proceedings until we’ve had time to fully investigate and seek the truth. The integrity of the highest court in the land hangs in the balance,” he tweeted.

Attempts to reach the Rich campaign before press time Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The NM Political Report in a Sept. 22 story reports that Rich has said he thinks Ford should be heard, but accused Democrats on the committee of politicizing the allegations.

“It’s all politics,” Rich said. “Dianne Feinstein coming in at the last minute, it’s politics. She’s struggling for her election, it’s about politics, across the board, I get it, I understand it. It doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.