Gary Johnson candidate profile


Reason has profiled the major Republican presidential hopefuls and devised a scientific* survey to help readers find true love among the 10 top contenders (Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Gary Johnson, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul). 

Click here to take an eight-question quiz and find the candidate of your dreams.

* We're using "scientific" in the Republican sense of the word. So we really mean "made up."

Name: Gary Johnson (b. Gary Earl Johnson)

DOB: January 1, 1953 (shares a birthday with Betsy Ross, Barry Goldwater and Verne Troyer)

Aliases: Gov. Johnson, Iron Man, that libertarianish guy who's not Ron Paul

Experience: Johnson founded his construction company Big-J Enterprises in 1976 and ran it for nearly two decades before becoming the Republican governor of the overwhelmingly Democratic state of New Mexico in 1995. Big-J, which Johnson sold in 1999, remains a leading construction firm in the Land of Enchantment. Johnson was re-elected governor in 1999, his tenure marked by a record number of vetoes, a winning struggle against tax increases, and prosperity in the state.

Hangups: low name recognition, severe soundbite challenges, Ron Paul's prior claim on the uncoveted "mild-mannered libertarian" position

Spending/size of government/entitlement reform: Along with Ron Paul, Johnson is part of a fairly recent phenomenon: Republican candidates who take their small-government rhetoric seriously. In the New Mexico statehouse, he vetoed 750 bills, fired 1,200 state employees and left the state with a billion-dollar budget surplus. His presidential platform includes cutting Medicare and Medicaid by 43 percent and turning them into block grant programs. His budget cutting plans extend even to the bipartisan sacred cow of defense, which would also come in for a 43 percent cut. Tells ConcordPatch, "I believe that less government is the best government."

Economic Policy: Tells SalemPatch, "We're on the verge of a monetary and financial collapse," predicting that massive national debt will eventually roil bond markets and deplete the dollar. "Money's not going to be worth anything." Departs from job-promising politicians by bragging that he didn't create a single job as governor of New Mexico, but rather created an economic climate wherein "businesses went to bed at night knowing I would veto legislation that would hurt them." Supports a balanced federal budget. Envisions a law that would allow states to go bankrupt and prevent Washington, DC from bailing out state governments. Advocates the "Fair Tax" on consumption, adding, "No withholding from your check as an employee…It would create tens of millions of jobs overnight."

Foreign policy: "Can we provide a strong national defense for this country and cut military spending by 43%? Yes, and we have to. The biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we're broke." Believes the 2001 campaign in Afghanistan was "warranted," but has opposed more recent uses of military force. "We were attacked, we attacked back.  [Now], "we're building roads, schools, bridges, highways and hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries in the world… We're borrowing 43 cents of every dollar to do it, and worst of all, American servicemen and servicewomen are losing their lives." 

Drug war: Wants to legalize marijuana. "This [smoking pot] is something I've done. I wasn't caught. I could be in prison, as could 100 million Americans." Johnson's legalization argument is pragmatic rather than ideological, and has not yet included a call for legalization of "harder" drugs. 

Personal freedom: Splits from the Republican field in supporting the right to abortion and non-standard marriage. In personal life, the teetotaling Johnson is an athlete, competitor in Iron Man contests, and marijuana self-medicater (following a painful 2005 paragliding accident). The best evidence that Johnson believes in a flourishing life outside the purview of government may be that after leaving office in New Mexico he returned to the private sector: "Since leaving office I was co-chairman of the board for Alpha Security Corp and President of Hi Beta. Two entrepreneurial ventures that I didn't make any money at but didn't lose any either. I spent three years with a tool belt on, building my home in northern New Mexico." Said of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, "I become emotional over the fact that we have young men and women in the service that are gay and can't express that, who are putting their lives on the line." 

Immigration: While his immigration platform is the most liberal in the Republican field, Johnson supports a national ID. When Reason's Brian Doherty asked Johnson about a clause supporting e-verify in his campaign pamphlet, Johnson explained that he'd changed his mind – on the strictly pragmatic basis that the current system is too error-prone – after the pamphlet was printed. The campaign website OurAmericanInitiative.com currently has the following plank: "Enact an application and tracking procedure for guest workers, such as an e-verify system. Procedures must be quick, simple and efficient in providing documentation information, and must meet the needs of both employers and willing workers."

Education: "Although it may sound drastic, there are practical reasons why [abolishing the Department of Education] should be considered" – garyjohnson.com. Tried twice to introduce statewide school voucher programs in New Mexico. Continues to support individual choice in education: "All parents should have an opportunity to choose which school their children attend.. It's time to free individuals from burdensome federal mandates so they can pursue the right educational strategies."

Energy: "Energy Entrepreneurship is the Solution to America's Clean Energy Needs," declares an article at garyjohnson2012.com. "Lower taxes, less spending, fewer strangling regulations, an end to all the credit-hogging by the US Treasury, and other business-friendly policies will make sure the American economy is strong and awash with the capital and credit it needs to fuel entrepreneurship, while breaking down the barriers that keep new entrepreneurs from getting off the ground." As governor, Johnson supported energy policies of National Governors Association and Western Governors Association. 

Religious? Yes, but with less volume than is typical for Republican candidates. When asked about his religious beliefs and views on the role of religion in society, Johnson, a Lutheran, responds, "I believe in God, which has given me a very fundamental belief that we should do unto others as we would have others do unto us."

Appeal for libertarians? Has spoken in favor of smoking bans and the like, but regularly uncorks heart-warming statements such as, "I really don't like to be told what to do" and "In terms of individual liberties and fiscal responsibility, opposition to the drug war is perfectly consistent with true Republican Party values."

Horoscope for 2011:  Johnson has had a tough 2011, consistently polling in the low single digits and getting bumped from most of the Republican debates. But Horoscope.com suggests his luck may change: "You may start 2011 feeling tired and discouraged, but your mood will pick up very quickly. Keep yourself busy doing what you love. It'll lift your spirits and stimulate your creativity. You have a strong constitution, and you rarely get sick." 

Campaign site: www.garyjohnson2012.com

Reason on Johnson