The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Gary Johnson talks Senate run


August 25, 2018

David Grieder

Former governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson visited Clovis on Friday during the early days of his recently-declared bid to run for U.S. Senate as the Libertarian Party nominee.

CLOVIS — Climbing mountains, racing mountain bikes, running for Congress — Gary Johnson said he can do anything for nine weeks, including a Libertarian bid for U.S. Senate, and that’s just what he hit the trail for this week.

Will this race be his next Everest? Johnson’s answer is yes, yes it is.

The former two-time New Mexico governor and presidential candidate announced last week his intentions to run as the Libertarian Party’s nominee, joining a contest with Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican challenger Mick Rich. In the past few days he set off on a statewide campaign to that purpose, visiting Clovis on Friday morning in between stops in Portales and Tucumcari.

In an interview with The News, Johnson explained how the prospect of becoming a swing vote on Capital Hill galvanized him into a race he’d previously rejected. That, and some analysis of his prospects along with encouragement from Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, who recently withdrew from the race and approached Johnson to take his spot.

“Total surprise,” Johnson said. “I mean, if you’ve ever heard me say anything about running for the U.S. Senate, I’ve said no way, it’s a job that's all about bellying up to the trough, and the last thing we need is more spending in Washington.”

But Johnson ultimately decided his odds were promising enough, propelling him toward a role that he said he wouldn’t take lightly.

“I have no intention of going to Washington, D.C., and being a wallflower. I’m 65 years old. I don’t have time to spend being a placeholder,” he said. “Man, if I put my teeth into it you’re going to have to bash my brains out to get rid of that bite. Not that people don’t try.”

Balancing the budget, reducing regulations and promoting state’s rights would be Johnson’s priorities as a legislator, he said. If elected over the major party candidates he could end up as “the most lonely person up there,” or could instead hold a critical role as a swing vote.

“Arguably, that position becomes a swing vote in the Senate. Incredibly, an opportunity for New Mexico,” he said. “Big yank for New Mexico in Washington, D.C. And that’s what’s conceivably at stake. ... This is big stakes, this is really big stakes. Which kinds of excites me, personally.”

Specific to New Mexico, Johnson emphasized the state’s special position with relation to the armed forces. While he is “staunchly opposed to our military interventions,” he also said it makes the most fiscal sense for the nation’s military assets to be in the Land of Enchantment.

“The U.S. government is spending new money to make new facilities in other places, when from strictly a dollars and cents basis, the best dollar spent is in New Mexico,” he said. “Because things don’t rust, and we have the space to conduct whatever the military decides their exercises ought to entail ... and when it comes to the labs, the infrastructure is here.”

At a national level, he wants to pursue measures that he believes will benefit citizens in every state. To promote entrepreneurship, he wants to expand the model of popular ride-sharing services to other professions, from plumbing to accounting.

“I believe in Uber everything. The future is Uber everything,” he said. “This elimination of the middle man, I think that would require federal legislation, perhaps on the liability side of things, the insurance side of things.”

A prominent public advocate of marijuana legalization since 1999, Johnson’s attitudes on the matter have not waned.

“First of all I would be pounding the table in Washington to deschedule marijuana completely,” he emphasized. “There are tens of millions of felons in this country that but for our drug laws would be tax-paying, law abiding citizens.”

Previously the CEO of publicly traded company Cannabis Sativa, Inc., Johnson said he believes in the health factors of the variously controlled substance, which combined with his hobbies of scaling summits on every continent and putting weeks at a time into cross-country mountain bike races could go a long way for his longevity.

“Anecdotally, the stuff cures everything. I may live to be 135,” he joked.

More broadly, the stance is part of his ideological bent of live-and-let-be on social issues.

“My political philosophy, I’m conservative to the core when it comes to economics. Cut government spending,” he said. “On the social side, I believe that all of us are entitled to pursue happiness. And happiness, to me, starts and ends with being able to make all of the decisions in our lives. If that happens to be smoking pot, if that happens to be drinking yourself to death at night, have at it — as long as you don’t put other people in harm’s way.”

Johnson said he gives President Donald Trump credit for reducing taxes, rules and regulations. But he has graver concerns with long-term impacts from the commander-in-chief and his administration.

“I have an issue with Trump. I don’t think he tells the truth, and my whole life has been about truth and integrity, and I think seeds are being sown right now that aren’t going to have good implications for the office of president because of Trump,” he said. “Where is the spending reduction to go along with the reduction in taxes? Republicans seem to have lost their way when it comes to spending.”

Johnson was more optimistic about the plants of his own in progress. Metaphorically, that is. A statewide poll early this month showed Heinrich supported by almost half of the 500 people surveyed, while Rich and Johnson had support from 33 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Still, that poll was conducted before Johnson officially entered the race and he noted that he’d yet to spend a dime on advertising.

“Right now I am blown away by the support. I planted a lot of seeds here in New Mexico,” he said. “New Mexico is my home, it’s where I raised my family, I’ve grown up in New Mexico. I am New Mexico. My whole life has been about honesty and keeping my word, and it looks like the plants are flowering at the moment.”


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