Gary Johnson, the Republican former governor of New Mexico, skipped formation of an exploratory committee and went right for the big show. “I am running for president,” he blasted on Twitter Thursday as he made the same announcement in person from the New Hampshire statehouse.
But Mr. Johnson is not your typical Republican. As a governor, he set records for vetoing legislation over spending, earning him the nickname Governor Veto. He advocates legalizing marijuana, supports gay marriage, and opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also favors a temporary guest-worker program and a process that allows illegal workers to earn legal status.
In other words, Johnson has strong libertarian leanings. And he could be the next Ron Paul, the Texas Republican congressman and once-and-maybe-future presidential candidate who has a devoted following among young libertarians. Or Johnson could be even stronger than Paul, given his eight years of executive experience as a governor, from 1995 to 2003.
“I’m a fix-it man,” Johnson asserted in his announcement speech. “Within two terms, I’d eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit and cut the rate of state government growth in half while reducing the state workforce by over 10 percent, without laying off a single qualified state worker.”
Johnson is sure to get lots of attention for his stand on legalizing marijuana. He has called the war on drugs “an expensive bust” that drains government resources on police, courts, and prisons. In a December 2010 interview with John McCormack of The Weekly Standard, he acknowledged illegal marijuana use as a painkiller between 2005 and 2008, following a paragliding accident. (Medical marijuana became legal in New Mexico in 2007.)
He also offers reassurance that he’s not a rigid libertarian. In the Weekly Standard interview, he said his fiancee asked him what she should read to better understand his philosophy, and he recommended “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.
“I think I view the system the same way that Ayn Rand views the system –that it really oppresses those that create, if you will, and tries to take away from those that produce and give to the non-producers,” Johnson said.
But, he added: “I would like to see the government help out those truly in need. She [Ayn Rand] wasn’t that way.”