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Former gov. Johnson leaning anti-Trump

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By Sherry Robinson

New Mexico is in the spotlight with three high-profile campaign visits, but another big day looms. The Libertarian Party will choose its candidate for president at the end of May. Gary Johnson is getting national attention from the left and the right - especially from the right - as the anti-Trump. Some pundits speculate that Johnson could even draw disgruntled Bernie supporters.
Last week our former governor notched 10 percent support in a Fox News poll. Compare that with the 1 percent Johnson polled in 2012.
It’s within striking distance of the 15 percent he needs to be part of televised debates. He sweetened his ticket with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as vice president. Weld is a Republican who was popular in a blue state.
The Libertarians will probably be the only non-mainstream party to appear on the ballot in all 50 states. Which is why their Florida convention – and Gary Johnson – will draw unprecedented scrutiny.
All this and he looks way better without a shirt than Vladimir Putin, said blogger Emily Zanotti.
A couple of months ago, New Mexico Political Report ran a somewhat dewy-eyed recollection of Johnson as an unknown contender when he ran for governor in 1994. Johnson inched out a win in the Republican primary, and then whupped Democrats, divided because of a spat between incumbent Bruce King and his former lieutenant governor.
“Johnson hired many young staffers who shared his vision of running government as a business,” the story said.
That’s not what happened. Johnson hired so many novices that his office was dysfunctional until then Sen. Pete Domenici strong-armed Johnson into hiring Domenici’s former chief of staff, Lou Gallegos. In his two terms, Johnson proved that you can’t run government like a business.
Every story about Johnson repeats the bit about his 700 vetoes. That sounds good only if you forget that each of those bills began with constituents who fought hard for the change or program or project. What I remember is that he didn’t listen to anybody, and he was incapable of compromise. He let the Indian gaming genie out of the bottle. And he pushed legalization of marijuana when we had more urgent issues.
Still, in the last six years, I’ve come to miss Gary. He had no handlers and no alter egos. His decisions, good or bad, were his own. He calls himself the honest man and says exactly what he thinks, and for that reason he makes a great former governor.
It’s that kind of candor (he called Trump a p***y) that voters want. But can they embrace a Libertarian? Johnson, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal, would shrink government, end the drug war, curtail military intervention, and support gay marriage, abortion and gun ownership.
Currently, Johnson is polling at 14 percent in New Mexico, according to the online news site New Mexico Political Report. He’s got 16 percent of Republicans, 10 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents.
That number could grow, but voters may shy from another spoiler like Ross Perot or Ralph Nader.
Recently, Blair Dunn, son of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, made a case for supporting Gary Johnson. Trump “masterfully deployed his circus to set fire to the tent of the Republican Party,” and used “his house of horrors to scare potential Bernie supporters into supporting Hillary as if only she could beat Trump.” He urged “soon to be disenfranchised Bernie supporter or tentless Republicans” to consider Johnson. Dunn called Johnson’s track record “stellar.”
Stellar? We had an eight-year standoff between Johnson and the Legislature. In the end he’d alienated as many Rs as Ds. Johnson has matured as a politician. Whether he’s presidential material or not, I’m glad he has a bigger voice.
© 2016 New Mexico News Service