SANTA FE — It’s 10 AM, Wednesday, Dec. 28 and Gary Johnson, two time Governor of New Mexico strides to the podium to begin his press conference. He looks good in a dark suit and white shirt and is obviously fit. He has climbed Mt. Everest, Elbrus in Russia and more recently Mt. Kilimanjaro. His attractive fiancé, Kate Prusack, is with him as well as his daughter, Seah and her friend, Josh Phillips. Their next goal is to climb Aconcagua in Argentina but the presidential campaign comes first.
“I am here today to announce that I am leaving the Republican Party,” is his opening sentence. After a moment explaining how he believes he was snubbed by the Republicans, he outlines the vision of a person who claims to be a fiscal conservative and social liberal. His credentials? Eight years as Governor of New Mexico during which he vetoed some 750 bills. In fact, it could be argued that the budget surplus he built up via those vetoes was what enabled his successor, Bill Richardson to have the funds to hire so many cronies and get himself in the trouble that still plagues him today.
Johnson describes his agenda, then Mark Hinkle, chairman of the Libertarian Party says a few words and has Johnson sign the papers to join the Libertarian Party. There are nine other Libertarian candidates so Johnson isn’t a slam dunk but it’s hard to believe that, given his name recognition, he won’t eventually be the nominee. (I don’t think that Ron Paul will run as a Libertarian, given the bind it would put his son, Rand, in.)
This is followed by a lengthy question and answer session during which Johnson responds quickly but sometimes vaguely to everything that is thrown his way.
Who will be his VP? He won’t know until he has the nomination.
What is this Fair Tax? A 23 percent value added tax that would replace all federal taxes and would be softened by a monthly rebate of $200 to all citizens. Very confusing.
What did he do as Governor to further his opposition to drug laws? Not much actually.
Does he speak Spanish? No.
Does he believe in foreign aid? No.
What would he do about Afghanistan? Immediate withdrawal.
Would he protect minority religious groups like Sikhs from discrimination? Yes.
Does he support the Hemp for Victory program? (No one seemed to know what that was.)
The question and answer period went on for over a half hour and, frankly, it was very enjoyable.
• There was none of the oppressive security that would mark a major Republican or Democratic event.
• Johnson is a cheerful candidate who feels free to say what he believes.
• It was a smaller setting in which everyone had a chance to ask a question.
• And he has positions that I support like expanding a work visa program for workers from Mexico, the legalization of marijuana, and free trade.
Johnson is not someone I could ever vote for but he did give us an enjoyable morning. And, for us Democrats, he may also siphon off 5-8 perent of the Republican votes in New Mexico, giving Obama a much better chance of winning the state.
Morgan Smith is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Commissioner of Agriculture and Director of the Colorado International Trade Office. He can be reached at Morganemail@example.com.