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Gary Johnson remains contender for U.S. Senate

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By Tris DeRoma

Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Gary Johnson said he’s the best candidate in the three-way race for one reason — influence. Influence that he says can make New Mexico a real contender in the U.S. Senate. 

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“If I’m the swing vote in the U.S. Senate, and if it’s going to be close to where my vote is really going to matter… I’m going to line up on both sides depending on the issue,” Johnson said. 

“That’s a huge amount of influence New Mexico could have in the U.S. Senate. That cannot be done by electing either a Democrat or a Republican, they are just going to line up as Democrats or Republicans.” 

The former governor and presidential candidate is known for his easy-going attitude but hardline fiscal policies. With only a few weeks to take on the challenge of overcoming his late entry to the race, and facing Democrat Sen. Martin Heinrich, Johnson was at ease Friday as he discussed his ideas for the office. 

One issue he pointed to was Heinrich’s stance on the expansion of the Holloman Air Force Base’ flyway footprint for F-16 pilot training. Johnson claims that Heinrich is against the expansion because the expansion will impact the Hilo Wilderness. 

“I disagree with that,” Johnson said. “We’re talking thousands of jobs. As a U.S. Senator there are issues with regard to the airspace, but we’ll work them out. We want those F-16s in Alamagordo, New Mexico.”

One thing he said he would try to do as a senator would be to consolidate the U.S. Department of Energy’s plutonium pit manufacturing in Los Alamos. As the plan stands now, the DOE wants Los Alamos to manufacture 30 pits and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to manufacture 50 of the pits. 

The plutonium pits are used as triggers in nuclear weapons, and Los Alamos has been the only site where they are manufactured. While Los Alamos can accommodate plutonium pit manufacturing, the plan calls for new infrastructure in South Carolina.

“Money spent here in the labs is money better spent here than building it new somewhere else,” Johnson said.  “The pit manufacturing comes to mind.”

Another area where he differs with his opponents is with how to fund healthcare. 

Johnson said New Mexico’s leaders need to be spending more attention to the growing national deficit rather than looking for ways to make it bigger. 

“I will be a budget hawk in the U.S. Senate, where I hope to be on the budget committee. My pledge is to submit a balanced budget to the U.S. Congress, and you don’t balance a budget by expanding Medicare for all,” he said.

Johnson also said the country can’t get around the problems of budget deficits by printing more money. He referred to the financial crises in Venezuela and Zimbabwe as examples as to why printing money should not be utilized to solve fiscal problems. 

“If printing $1 trillion that we don’t have, if printing money to a key to success, a key formula to prosperity, than Zimbabwe would be the center of the world, followed by Venezuela,” he said. “Without exception, every country that prints money at some point, suffers the consequences, which is inflation.” 

The Libertarians have made the federal legalization of marijuana a key plank in their platform, viewing it as a states’ rights issue. 

That would be accomplished by taking marijuana of the class one narcotic list, Johnson said. 

“(The federal government) can theoretically come in and crack down on every state because marijuana is a class 1 narcotic,” Johnson said. 

If anything, Johnson wants to change the U.S. drug testing laws when it comes to testing for marijuana. He said the current tests negatively impacts thousands of people a year because it only test for the chemical THC, not impairment, like alcohol sobriety tests do. 

“There are thousands of people losing their jobs… Los Alamos would certainly be front and center on hanging over everyone’s job,” Johnson said. “…establish impairment. I don’t know what that level is, but currently, the testing for most drug testing is 10 nanograms.” 

Johnson attaches an economic impact to federal laws governing marijuana use.

“For those individuals that have been convicted of marijuana offenses, the group may be 10 million plus that are convicted felons, but for our marijuana laws would be tax paying, law abiding citizens,” Johnson said. 

Johnson served two terms as New Mexico’s governor as a Republican from 1994 to 2002, and ran for the president as a Republican in 2012 and a Libertarian in 2016. 

In the general election, he faces Heinrich and Republican candidate Mick Rich. 

He responded to this week’s public request from New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi’s who called for him to withdraw from the race.

“Well, I’m not going to do that,” Johnson said. “Interestingly, I was going to split the open voter and the stoner vote, now I need to drop out because all my votes will go to the Republicans.”