The socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican is running for president because he says the country is on the verge of financial collapse. The successful businessman’s campaign focus is New Hampshire. He recently opened a campaign headquarters in Manchester.
“I’m putting my chips on the table in New Hampshire,” Johnson (www.garyjohnson2012.com
) said during an interview with the Hippo on Monday, June 27. “It either happens here or it doesn’t,” he said. He’s made 12 visits to New Hampshire during the past 16 months.
Johnson, an avid athlete, has competed in several Ironman triathlons in Hawaii and more than 30 marathons, finds his passion in skiing and has reached the summit of Mount Everest. He turned a one-man handyman store in 1974 into a company with more than 1,000 employees that he sold in 1999. After a paragliding accident in 2003, he slapped on a tool belt and built his dream home north of Taos in prime ski country.
At the moment, Johnson may be more well-known nationally and in New Hampshire as the candidate who was excluded from a presidential debate in New Hampshire this month. He had taken part in the first primary debate in South Carolina. He was told he didn’t meet the New Hampshire debate requirements, a point his team fought but to no avail.
“I never even considered I’d be excluded,” Johnson said. Until now, he said, he’d believed in the political system and how it allows candidates to “crack the door” open — from there, it’s up to the candidate. But he feels the door was slammed shut and he has soured on the process.
He said the field of GOP candidates is all the things people make fun of Republicans for. While Republicans talk about liberty and freedom, they still support measures that infringe on liberty and freedom. On the other hand, he said Democrats can support measures that promote liberty and freedom but only with a big toll on the pocketbook.
It’s the economy that has Johnson running this time around. He’d begin by balancing the budget, which he said would be the only chance America has of emerging from its debt crisis. He says government doesn’t create any jobs but can create a level playing field and an environment of certainty that promotes growth. He’d eliminate business-to-business taxes and other business taxes that thwart growth and institute a fair tax. “That would really plant the seeds for economic growth in the long term,” Johnson said. “It is that simple.”
As governor, he says, he probably vetoed more legislation than all the rest of the country’s governors combined. He has said and will say no to all spending, he maintains. He’d push for abolishing the federal Department of Education in deference to the “50 laboratories of best practices” working in each state. He says people don’t often understand that taking federal money usually comes with strings attached — that it often costs more to take it than it would to decline. He looks to make decisions absent of ideology. “We just took it on A to Z,” Johnson said of his tenure as governor. “Politics wasn’t a consideration. … I advanced the ball.”
As president, he’d tackle Medicare and Medicaid, dramatically cut back military spending, institute drug policy including legalization of marijuana, and work to reform the country’s prison system — under his watch, New Mexico privatized its prison system and subsequently saved one-third of what it had been spending on corrections. Legalizing marijuana would help eliminate 75 percent of the border violence in Mexico, Johnson said.
When asked about governing a border state, Johnson turned the question and wondered if New Hampshire felt the need for a fence on its border with Canada. He didn’t think a fence was the answer for New Mexico either. Johnson would support legislation to make it easier for immigrants to obtain a work VISA, not a green card or straight citizenship. He said he believes immigrants, particularly Mexicans, would gladly take a legal route to cross the border if one existed.
Financially independent, Johnson could have done anything. But he felt public office was most worthy.
“I always viewed this as a higher calling,” Johnson said, adding he always wanted to be directly involved with public policy. “It was always a goal of mine. I was elected [governor] on my words but I was reelected on my deeds. … Maybe I’m the best guy for the job.”
While other candidates are working hard to corner the market on tea party support, Johnson isn’t all that worried about the movement’s lack of an embrace for him. “I don’t think that’s such a negative,” Johnson said.
“Just give me a look along with everybody else and I think I’ll fare well in your analysis,” Johnson said.
Get regular updates from the campaign trail at 2012nh.com