Gary Johnson is a former two-term governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 and is currently running for president as a candidate representing the Libertarian Party after ending his bid to be the Republican candidate.
Johnson is visiting Charlotte over the weekend and took a few minutes to discuss his stops in North Carolina, his candidacy and a range of issues with The News & Observer.
Q: What are your plans while you're in North Carolina?
A: We ended up stuck on the taxiway for an hour and ten minutes with the storms (on Friday night) and apparently the whole airport was shut down, but it’s well worth the trouble. I have been here on several occasions and it's always great to visit. I’m running a 5k Saturday with (Libertarian candidate for N.C. governor) Barbara Howe on Saturday. We also have a fundraising lunch to talk to Conservatives for Constitutionally Declared War and another fundraiser. We have other stops interspersed all around Charlotte.
Q: Many philosophical libertarians do not identify with the Libertarian Party. Why is that – and what won you over after years of sticking with the GOP?
A: The notion of actually winning the race has forever been a concern for philosophical libertarians running for office. There are a lot more people that describe their beliefs as libertarian than there are voting Libertarian. This year there are more than ever, and I believe I have a real chance. I’ll bet there hasn’t been a single nominee that hasn’t said the same thing, but I’m polling a low of 5 percent and a high of 15 percent.
Q: A candidate needs to be polling at 15 percent in order to be included in televised presidential debates. How important is that?
A: The only way I win is to be in the debate with Obama and Romney. It’s a real possibility if polling organizations would include my name … I accept the whole underdog role and reality that it’s an uphill battle, but it has been difficult to swallow how exclusionary the process has been. I wasn’t given a fair shake at all as a Republican candidate. CNN cast this whole thing in stone by saying that, because I wasn’t polling at 1 percent in A, B and C polls, that I couldn’t be on the stage at Republican debates. You can’t make this stuff up, but it was about a year before then that CNN stopped including my name in their biweekly poll. Then I was tied with Herman Cain and ahead of Rick Santorum, but they dropped me off the poll. That’s exclusion in the worst way.
Q: Is there a structural problem with the election process that needs a legislative fix?
A: In this case the structural apparatus in place, and that would’ve been for the Republican Party to stand up and ask for me to be in the polls. (Republican National Committee Chairman) Rience Priebus needed to stand up and say, ‘You need to put Johnson in the polls, and then if he’s not showing you don’t have to put him in the debate.’ In New Mexico I was an absolute outsider when I ran for governor. They were totally inclusive in the process. The national party is not.
Q: Some of your supporters hoped you would run for U.S. Senate as a Republican rather than president as a Libertarian. Would you have been better able to affect change by running for Senate?
A: I think the root of all evil is Congress. More than we would like to think, the Senate is about what you can bring home for your state instead of what’s best for the country. I don’t want to be a contributor to that. The last thing I want to do is to contribute to the problems we have. Running for president and promising to submit a balanced budget in 2013 gives voters a real alternative. Obama in no way supports a balanced budget, and Romney says it’s important but that we need to increase spending for military. I finished second grade and the math that went along with that, and I know it’s impossible. ... By running for president I can keep bringing attention to issues that are being ignored. I would get out of Afghanistan and bring the troops home. I've consistently supported marriage equality. I would end the drug war. Who else can say that?
Q: What would you say to Republicans who believe a strong showing for you will give Obama another term?
A: It's absolute baloney to say that you voting your conscience is a bad thing. That's the way you, how we, as voters affect the system. Secondly, it's been put to the test through polling and I maintain that votes will be taken equally from both sides. In New Mexico I take more votes away from Obama than Romney. Other states it's the opposite. It's a mixed bag at best, and I believe a lot of my votes will come from independents that wouldn't have voted for anyone. ... It's a positive if I actually show up from a numbers standpoint in a bigger way than Ross Perot.
Q: Why should North Carolinians vote for you?
A: I’m not the third choice. I’m the only choice. The only way I can convince you is to check it out, so look into my background and beliefs. I’m not offering up solutions to every single problem in this country, but I’m starting the conversation so we can find solutions. Take the time to check me out.