Gary Johnson is hoping to capitalize on Americans’ growing distaste for the two major party presumptive nominees and springboard the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination onto the debate stage. If he can muster 15 percent of voters in five mainstream news polls, Johnson will be allowed to debate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump before a massive national TV audience this fall.
Johnson, a self-made millionaire who served two terms as governor of New Mexico as a Republican, has been polling in the high single digits and is poised to earn the highest vote share of a third party candidate since Ross Perot in 1996. His running mate is former Massachusetts governor William “Bill” Weld, who was named the party’s vice presidential candidate during its convention in May.
Like many Libertarians, Johnson projects himself as socially liberal, fiscally conservative and dovish on foreign policy.
Here’s a look at where he stands on the issues:
1. Johnson Supports Gay Marriage & Called It ‘a Question of Liberty & Freedom’
As a presidential candidate in 2011, Johnson released a press statement officially endorsing gay marriage, citing individual freedoms and “keeping government out of personal lives.” Johnson’s statement said he “long supported civil unions” and concluded “government has no business choosing who should be allowed the benefits of marriage and who should not.”
“For a very long time, society has viewed gay marriage as a moral and, yes, religious issues. Today, I believe we have arrived at a point in history where more and more American are viewing it as a question of liberty and freedom,” his statement said.
Johnson joined a number of conservative political operatives in filing court documents in opposition to California’s Proposition 8, a statewide referendum to ban gay marriage, The New York Times reported in 2013.
In a 2010 op-ed piece in the Huffington Post titled “Let’s Finally End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Johnson urged Congress to repeal the policy banning gays in the military. Johnson argued that the United States is one of the only significant military powers in the world clinging to such a and pointed to a national poll showing 77 percent of Americans in favor of DADT’s repeal.
“Likewise, as has been widely documented, more than twenty of our NATO allies…allow gay men and women to serve openly, and the sky has not fallen,” Johnson wrote.
2. Johnson Has Been Mostly Supportive of Abortion Rights
During this campaign cycle, Johnson has continuously voiced support for abortion rights, even though he favored limiting those rights to the viability of the fetus as a presidential candidate in 2012. He opposes funding stem cell research.
“I want to give women choice in dealing with that issues, period. Unbelievably difficult decision,” he told the site. I’m going to make it for a woman? Government’s going to make it for a woman? I don’t want to play a part in that role.”
Similarly, Johnson told Rolling Stone in 2011 that he supports a woman’s right to choose “up until viability of the fetus,” although public funding shouldn’t be used for abortions.
3. He Was Nicknamed ‘Governor No’ for His Propensity to Veto Spending Bills as Governor of New Mexico
As New Mexico’s Republican governor from 1995 to 2003, Johnson earned a “B” rating from the free-market, conservative think tank, The Cato Institute, for proposals to reduce income taxes on top-earners and never increasing the cigarette tax – a move other governors, both Republican and Democrat, tackled.
Earning the nickname “Governor No” for his record-setting number of vetoes against increased government spending, Johnson instead looked for private companies to build things like highways.
Johnson line-item vetoed $5 million to expand Medicare and Medicaid in a statewide budget — a move he said he would repeat at the national level.
“I would have the federal government cut Medicare and Medicaid by 43 percent and block grant the programs [to the states] with no strings,” Johnson said in a 2011 interview with Scott Holleran. “Instead of giving the states one dollar – and it’s not really giving because there are strings attached – the federal government needs to give the states 57 cents, take away the strings and give the states carte blanche for how to give health care to the poor.”
4. Johnson Supports the Legalization of Marijuana & Was CEO of a Medical Marijuana Company
Not only does Johnson support legalizing marijuana, but he also worked for the medicinal marijuana industry – a job he stepped away from when he launched his latest presidential campaign.
Named CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Johnson wrote up the business’s mission statement: The company “believes cannabis is destined to become the next gold rush and we’re prepared to shape its future in a legal environment.”
Citing a poll which shows 56 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, Johnson told the Telegraph he is “the only one still to this day – at the level of a state governor or U.S. Congressman – who advocates marijuana legalization.
“Not one elected official at this level has agreed with the American people. Not one. Legislation is going to happen anyway and I can’t think of a bigger public policy disconnect than the one we are talking about right now,” he told the paper.
Johnson also predicts President Obama will deschedule marijuana as a Class I narcotic, removing weed from the top tier of controlled substances.
“I think every municipality has to realize that all the planes to Denver every single weekend are filled up, and they’re missing out, and Colorado is absolutely vibrant,” he told the Washington Times. “Is it due to marijuana? I think it’s a contributing factor.”
Johnson, however, told USA Today he stopped consuming pot to focus on his campaign.
“I want to be completely on top of my game, all cylinders,” he told the newspaper.
5. He’s a Regular Critic of American Military Intervention
Johnson has taken the opportunity to condemn President George W. Bush’s ongoing “War on Terrorism” and President Obama’s escalation of drone strikes, declaring both options as unjustifiable means of war, even though during a 2011 interview on Fox News he said, “initially, Afghanistan was totally warranted.”
“When it comes to drones,” Johnson said in a November 2015 interview with Reason, “I think it makes a bad situation even worse. We end up killing innocents and fueling hatred as opposed to containing it. It just hasn’t worked.”
Since at least 2011, when he stepped on the national stage, Johnson has opposed American involvement in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Johnson has instead cited government spending, rather than terrorism, as “the biggest threat” to the country.
A previous version of this article said Johnson stopped “smoking pot” to focus on his campaign. It has been clarified that he has stopped “consuming” it.