Gary Johnson’s PR doesn’t match his track record

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By Sherry Robinson

And he’s back.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson resurfaced as the Libertarian Party candidate in the Senate race, hoping to slow incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich’s sprint to the finish line.

Johnson always jazzes things up, and his willingness to share his thoughts frankly is refreshing. But he also causes amnesia about who he is, what he’s done, and what he believes.

The commotion straight out of the chute was typical. Johnson supporters tried to pressure Republican candidate Mick Rich to leave the race so Johnson would have a better chance, as if a Libertarian platform is interchangeable with a Republican platform. It’s not. And Rich has a right to run his own race representing Republicans.

Libertarians may include refugees of the two major parties, but they aren’t just a meld of those parties – they have distinctive beliefs that may or may not resonate with yours.

Johnson is a fan of small government, a balanced budget, lower taxes, and the free market. He wants to curtail the growth of Medicaid and other entitlement programs. He would probably vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice. But he thinks the current approach to the border is all wrong – the wall and National Guard troops are a waste of money, and we need work visas. Abortion, he says, should be a woman’s decision. And as the whole world knows, he would legalize marijuana.

As for Johnson himself, we’re hearing endlessly about his veto of 742 bills while he was governor. Stephen Despin, a supporter, recently wrote in an op ed that they were “wasteful spending bills… that would’ve harmed our economy, ultimately hurting the citizens of New Mexico.”

No, they weren’t.

Just a few of many examples: His first year he vetoed a bill, pushed by First Lady Dee Johnson, to waive college tuition for some young people in foster care. In 1998 he vetoed a bill to start a pilot program for state employees that would provide coverage for mental illnesses on par with coverage for physical illness. It had heavy bipartisan support and a congressional champion in Sen. Pete Domenici. In 2001 he vetoed an omnibus education reform package, two years in the making, that had broad bipartisan support. In 2002 he vetoed a bill to curb high-speed police chases.

Despin wrote that Johnson “cares what the citizens have to say” and “wants to hear their concerns… He displayed this as governor.”


“The single biggest thing said about Gary Johnson is, ‘He doesn’t listen,’” a source told me in 1995. In its annual report card, the Association of Commerce and Industry said he needed improvement in the areas of access and willingness to listen.

ACI said calls to Johnson or his staff aren’t returned. “The governor was elected to run state government like a business, which includes answering and returning telephone calls,” the ACI report said.

Despin wrote that Johnson isn’t left or right and is fiercely independent. “We need a guy like Gary in the middle.” Johnson has never been in the middle.

Former Gov. Garrey Carruthers, said in 2002, as Johnson was leaving office: “He’s an independent cuss – there’s no question about it. I think the Capitol would have collapsed from shock if Johnson ever uttered the word ‘compromise.’”
Notoriously ignorant about the government he ran, he once questioned the value of the Mexico Trade Office. His own economic development people said for the state’s $228,000, the office in one year generated $11.2 million in trade. This carelessness with details cost him credibility in his last presidential run, when he famously asked, “What’s Aleppo?”

Johnson presents himself as a swing vote and an alternative. If you want to vote for him, make sure you’re clear on his positions.