If all goes according to plan for former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson at this week's Libertarian Party convention in Las Vegas, he will win his party's nomination for president on the first ballot and his running mate will be Judge Jim Gray.
"The process all along has been to find somebody that can articulate libertarian ideals and beliefs and I've thought all along that he would be a really solid pick," said Johnson, during a phone interview with Reason late Sunday night.
Johnson said the fact that Gray is a judge and has prior campaign experience at a high level in California makes him a valuable addition to the campaign.
"He's been through the fire and he will be one heartbeat from the presidency and I think he would be very capable of that," he said.
Like Johnson, Gray was once a Republican and does have prior campaign experience but unlike Johnson he has not won a contested election. He never faced an electoral challenge as a Superior Court judge in Orange County and he lost his runs for Congress in 1998 and US Senate in 2004, respectively. Gray retired from the court in 2009 and is now a lawyer in private practice specializing in arbitration and mediation.
The Johnson/Gray ticket started to come together back in early March, around the time of the California Libertarian Party state convention. Johnson and Gray appeared together on a podcast where a caller asked about the possibility of the two running as a team. Gray, an early endorser of Johnson, said that the idea never crossed his mind until then when he was listed on the short list of possible vice presidential candidates.
"It was the first time I ever considered it and shortly thereafter his campaign approached me about the possibility of it," said Gray.
This was not their first meeting as Johnson endorsed Gray's drug policy book while he was still governor in 2001. The two were on an education reform panel at FreedomFest in 2010 and Johnson really left an impression on Gray as he "really understood Milton Friedman's approach."
Eventually everything fell into place on April 23 when the Johnson campaign formally asked Gray if he would be their running mate. Gray accepted.
"I agreed to run only if we were going to run to win. I am not going to do this 'Let's have a moral victory' stuff. I believe, and I think he agrees, that we have a good, solid 1 ½ % chance of winning this election," he said.
Gray said the Johnson campaign considered him, along with two other possible candidates, for vice president. At this time there do not appear to be any additional candidates currently seeking the Libertarian nomination for vice president. This could change at the convention as the Libertarians have a history of picking vice presidents from presidential candidates that lose in the early rounds of voting. This happened as recently as 2008 when Wayne Allyn Root wound up as the vice presidential candidate after losing his bid for the presidential nomination on the fifth ballot. Root ran as Bob Barr's running mate after being elected in the second round of voting.