Gary E. Johnson
|Gary E. Johnson|
|Governor of New Mexico|
From: January 1, 1995 – January 1, 2003
|Party||Libertarian (formerly Republican)|
|Spouse(s)||Dee Johnson (1977-2005)|
Gary Earl Johnson (born January 1, 1953) is an entrepreneur who served as the Republican Governor of New Mexico from 1995 through 2003. He graduated from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque in 1975 and went on to launch his own business, Big J Enterprises, which became one of the most successful construction companies in New Mexico. In the 2012 Presidential Election he was the nominee for the Libertarian Party.
Johnson was elected Governor of New Mexico in 1994 and reelected in 1998, becoming the first governor in state history to serve two consecutive four-year terms. He is a triathlete and the first governor to compete in Hawaii's Ironman Triathlon.
As Governor he cut taxes 14 times (annually $123 million), vetoed over 750 bills (more than the other 49 governors combined), cut the rate of government growth in half, reduced welfare spending 30%, balanced the budget, eliminated the state's deficit, privatized half of the state prisons, was a national advocate for school vouchers. He increased the budget for the state's education system and signed a $1.2 billion highway improvement package to upgrade 500 miles of state roads. When he left office New Mexico had 1,200 fewer government employees. Johnson was called "the most fiscally conservative governor" during his two terms.
Johnson feels the Sixteenth Amendment (creating the Income Tax) should be repealed and replaced with the FairTax - a 23% national Sales Tax. He argues that this would close all loopholes, and, as the name implies, be "fair". Johnson has said that while there is no such thing as a "good tax", the FairTax is the "best of the worst".
Johnson's views on some issues are at odds with conservative values. For instance, Johnson is pro-choice regarding abortion, although he supports overturning Roe v. Wade. He has said, "It should be a states issue to begin with, the criteria for a Supreme Court justice would be that those justices rule on the original intent of the constitution. Given that, it's my understanding that justice would overturn Roe v. Wade." Additionally, he earned high pro-life ratings as Governor of New Mexico by banning late-term abortions and requiring parental notification for minors. He also opposes all government funding for abortion (while as a Libertarian, he opposes government funding for almost everything, he considers this a specific point to mention).
Additionally, at first, Johnson opposed a government-mandated definition of marriage (either recognizing or refusing to recognize same-sex marriages), saying "I think the government should be out of the marriage business and leave marriage to the churches." Instead, he supported civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples offering the same benefits currently granted to married couples, and felt it should be up to the churches and the private individuals to determine what is or isn't "marriage". However, during an online town hall meeting on December 2, 2011, Johnson announced that he had changed his view on the issue to support outright government recognition of both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. Johnson would clarify that he did not see a difference between civil unions and marriages, but that the former would "require amending every federal code and law that says 'marriage' to instead say 'civil union'". Regardless, Johnson believes the Equal Protection Clause means that whatever term is used ("marriage" or "civil unions") must be used for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples and contain the same rights for both.
Johnson's positions are libertarian leaning, and some of his views were outside the mainstream of the Republican Party even when he was a member. He opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and supports reducing the defense budget by 44 to 90 percent from current levels. In 1999, Johnson became the highest-ranking elected official in the United States to advocate legalization of marijuana. He endorsed Ron Paul during the 2008 Presidential Election.
Johnson is highly critical of President Obama's economic policy. At one point, he quipped that his neighbor's two dogs had created more "shovel-ready" jobs than the President. Johnson has stated that he would not actually create the jobs themselves, but would rather create the opportunity for jobs through lower taxes and relaxed economic policy. He points out that this is the policy he used as Governor and it significantly improved the economy in New Mexico.
Johnson initially sought the Republican nomination in the 2012 Presidential Election, but was not very successful. Considering his highly conservative fiscal stances, but also his liberal or libertarian stances on social issues, most Republicans described Johnson as more libertarian than truly conservative. He is similar to fellow libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. However, whereas Paul supports the Defense of Marriage Act, Johnson believes marriage is a right guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause and that therefore, same-sex marriage should be legalized on a federal level. Johnson is also pro-abortion, whereas Paul is pro-life. However, both believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned and the laws should be left up to the states.
Paul is far better-known and so was expected to get the bulk of the libertarian vote in the primaries. Barring an early withdrawal by Paul, it appeared Johnson had virtually no chance of securing the Republican nomination. His situation was made worse by the refusal of the sponsors of most of the 2011 Republican Presidential Debates to allow Johnson to participate. As a result, there was increasing speculation that Johnson, who unsuccessfully sought assistance from the Republican National Committee, would seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party.
Months of rumors were confirmed on December 28, 2011, when Johnson announced he would switch parties and seek the Libertarian nomination. Johnson stated that the Republican party "snubbed" him because they "didn't want more than one [libertarain] messenger on stage" (a reference to Paul). He is considered the front-runner for the party nomination, which will be determined at the convention May 4–6 in Las Vegas. Although there are at least five other candidates, Johnson is by far the most experienced and well-known and is widely expected to be nominated.
On May 5, 2012, Johnson easily won the Libertarian Party nomination on the first ballot. He received approximately 70% of the vote while the next closest candidate received 25%. He nominated former California judge and marijuana legalization advocate Jim Gray to be his Vice President. This was confirmed on the first ballot with Gray receiving roughly 60% of the vote.
Johnson is expected to be on the ballot in every state, with the possible exception of Oklahoma. Douglas Schoen, a columnist for Fox News, wrote a column in support of Johnson's campaign, saying "With neither Obama nor Romney offering an overarching message that has been able to resonate with an electorate that is becoming increasingly cynical about anyone's ability to fix this country’s ongoing, trenchant and most vexatious problems – Gary Johnson’s voice is one that needs to be heard". Another Fox News article reported on the challenges Johnson will experience getting into the debates - he needs to be on the ballot in enough states to potentially gather 270 electoral votes (almost a given at this point), and he needs to poll at 15% in several polls. PPP was the first poll to include him, but Zogby is now mentioning him as well. He is currently polling between 4 and 10 percent.
Governor Johnson did not have his name on the ballot in Michigan due to a sore loser law. However, he was registered in Michigan as a valid write-in candidate. Governor Johnson was three minutes late in withdrawing from the Republican Priamry and was thus on the ballot. Therefore, he is not allowed to run on another line. The case is currently pending. However, another Gary E. Johnson, a Texas businessman, has volunteered to stand in on the ballot if needed, and his electors would vote for Governor Johnson if he carries the state. Since ballot access in Michigan is by party, not person, one of the two Gary E. Johnsons should be on the ballot. However, the Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson, claimed Michigan has no procedure for switching candidates, in spite of precedent to the contrary. So, Johnson ended up with partial access in Michigan, but had no access, even as a write-in candidate, in Oklahoma. Johnson/Gray had ballot access in the other 48 states, write-in access in Michigan, and full access in Washington DC. He was the third party candidate who had the most availability on the 2012 Presidential ballot.
Johnson has admitted on several occasions that he has always been a libertarian and governed New Mexico as a Republican in name only. He also made the admission that he is not a "social conservative in any way," and unlike libertarian ally Ron Paul, Johnson is also pro-choice. He is currently contemplating a run for President in 2016 on the Libertarian platform.
- Politico.com article: "Gary Johnson launches Libertarian presidential bid"