Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, 63, has been nominated as the Libertarian candidate in the United States presidential race. Johnson beat five other candidates to win 55.8% of the vote during the Libertarian National Convention.
While it remains to be seen how Johnson will fair in November against the Republican and Democratic nominees, according to FiveThirtyEight Johnson polls at 10% against Trump and Clinton; a significant percentage for a third-party candidate. Johnson’s appeal amongst voters disillusioned with the state of the two-party system in the U.S. could have some significant impacts on election results, particularly in swing states needed by the Democratic nominee, according to POLITICO. An increase to at least 15% in polls would allow him to participate on the presidential debate stage.
Here’s what you need to know about Gary Johnson.
1. Johnson First Ran for U.S. President as a Republican in 2012
In 2009 Johnson founded Our America Initiative on the belief that:
government and its cost should be limited, and that civil liberties and individual freedom must be protected — not threatened — by that government. Our America seeks to act on that belief by giving voice to the ideas of liberty, smaller government, and financial responsibility.
His increasing political outspokenness started speculation about his potential run for president. Johnson officially announce his Republican run for the nomination on twitter in April 2011.
However, after disappointing results he dropped his bid for Republican nominee in December of that year and instead announced his bid for Libertarian Party nominee in the 2012 election. In early May 2012 he was nominated as Libertarian Party candidate during the Libertarian National Convention.
Johnson won just under one percent of the popular vote during the presidential election in November 2012, receiving 1,275,951 votes nationwide. In 25 states he won more than one percent of the vote, including in his home state of New Mexico where he received 3.55% of the popular vote. As Libertarian Party nominee, Johnson set a record for highest number of raw votes won.
2. He is the First Unmarried Candidate to Run For U.S. President since 1884
Johnson married Dee Simms in 1977 and the couple had two children together, daughter Seah in 1979 and son Erik in 1982. The couple were divorced in 2005 before Simms died in 2006 of heart disease at the age of 54. Johnson is now engaged to Kate Prusack, also 58, a realtor from Santa Fe, New Mexico whom he began dating in 2013 after they met while biking. The couple were engaged in 2014 while on a ski chair lift in New Mexico.
More than 100 years have past since the last unwed candidate ran for President of the United States. Grover Cleveland, was unmarried when he was elected in 1884 but then married during the first of his two terms in office. Before Cleveland, James Buchanan was elected in 1857 but remained a bachelor throughout his four-year term.
3. He Is Fiscally Conservative & Socially Liberal
Johnson identifies as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate in favor of a reduction in government spending and oversight, with a simultaneous increase personal freedoms and liberties.
Johnson stood out for his fiscal policies when he served two terms as New Mexico’s Republican governor from 1995 to 2003. During this time he earned the nicknames “Governor Veto” and “Veto Johnson” for his use of gubernatorial veto and line-item veto powers more than the combined record of 49 other governors – 200 times in the first six months he was in office, and 750 times total. A 10% annual growth in the budget was cut in part due to his national and state record-setting veto activity.
Included in his socially liberal views is advocacy for legalizing marijuana, and from 2014 to January 2016 he was President and CEO of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a medical marijuana company. In a 2015 interview with BLANK of ReasonTV Johnson discussed the strategy of Cannabis Sativa to “brand the best marijuana products in the world” and be the “Dom Perignon” of the pot world. He also states that he has “always maintained that marijuana is much safer than alcohol” “everybody can make a fortune in marijuana because everybody’s smoked marijuana.” Johnson resigned from his post at Cannabis Sativa in January of this year shortly before announcing that he was entering the race for the Libertarian nomination.
A substantial list of Johnson’s political positions can be viewed on Johnson’s official campaign website.
4. He Believes That Most Americans Are Libertarian (But Don’t Know It)
When interviewed by Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, Johnson was asked to defend why he believes that the great middle of America is libertarian. He responded (at 0:45):
Most people, I think, are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and most people, I think, recognize that our military interventions, for the most part, are having the unintended consequence of making things worse, not better.
Johnson reiterated this opinion during an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN’s GPS (at 0:45):
Well when 50% of Americans now, when they’re registering to vote are declaring themselves as independent, I think I’m trying to appeal to the majority of Americans whom I think are libertarian, it’s just that they don’t know it. And libertarian with a broad brush stroke: fiscally conservative, socially-accepting liberal.
5. His Personal Wealth Is Estimated Between $3 Million and $10.5 Million But Financial Issues Plague His Campaigns
According to Fox Business, in 2011 Johnson’s personal worth was estimated to be between $3 million and $10 million. His Public Financial Disclosure Report indicates that the value of his New Mexico home, his biggest asset, is between $1 million and $5 million.
Despite running on a fiscally conservative stance, Johnson has been criticized for lingering campaign debt from his 2012 bid for president and questionable campaign expenditures in the 2016 race. An FEC Debt Settlement Plan document indicates that Johnson’s 2012 campaign is still $1.9 million in debt, and according to the Center for Public Integrity, the consulting firm of campaign manager Ron Nielson receives 70% of Johnson’s campaign expenditures for the 2016 race.
As of April 30th, Johnson’s campaign committee reported that the campaign had raised $348,670 but spent $333,746 with only $14,924 in cash on hand.