New Mexico Governor Resists Draft Efforts

New Mexico Governor Resists Draft Efforts
Posted by FoM on October 07, 1999 at 07:26:32 PT
By Michael Janofsky
Source: New York Times
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.Embracing Gov. Gary E. Johnson's support of legalizing drugs as a symbol of his political independence, a local group announced on Wednesday that it was starting a campaign to draft him as the Libertarian Party candidate for president. 
That the New Mexico governor is an unwavering Republican who has already rejected the overture, saying he has no interest, has not deterred the group's efforts to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states in time for next year's elections. Members of the group said papers would be filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday. "We're hoping he'll change his mind," Ashley Gauthier, an Albuquerque lawyer and Republican-turned-Libertarian, said at a news conference here, where she and others praised Johnson for reducing taxes, promoting alternatives in public education and challenging the Clinton administration to abandon its current drug policies -- all favorite Libertarian positions. "We think the governor would be a good candidate," she added. "Maybe he just doesn't realize how much the public supports him." Bill Winter, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party, which is based in Washington, said: "The national office has to remain neutral, but we understand the benefits of a high elected official running for president. He would bring the party credibility it has not had before." While Reform Party candidates have enjoyed moderate success in recent years, including the election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota last November, no Libertarian has ever made much of an impact at state or national levels. The party has run candidates for president since 1972, but with negligible effect. Ed Clark, a California lawyer, made the best showing when he won 921,199 votes in 1980. Ronald Reagan, in a landslide victory over president Jimmy Carter, won 43.8 million votes that year to Carter's 35.4 million. Ross Perot, the leading alternative candidate in the last two presidential elections, carried the Reform banner and finished a distant third, winning 19.7 million votes in 1992 and 8 million four years later. The Libertarian candidate each year was well behind that. Johnson, a 46-year-old triathlete who has acknowledged using drugs in his youth, has insisted that his political life will end when his second term expires in 2002. A former businessman who never held public office before he was first elected in 1994, he says he wants to climb mountains, not seek another office. But even by turning down the offer to run for president, the governor has elevated the Libertarian profile through his campaign to change tactics in fighting drugs by legalizing them, a strategy that Libertarians have embraced for years. Speaking forcefully on the issue for the last two months, Johnson made his case again Wednesday in a speech at the Cato Institute, a research organization in Washington. More generally, Libertarians favor shrinking the size and cost of government and eliminating regulations that restrict free trade and personal choices. More members of the party tend to be former Republicans than former Democrats, and the party says it now has active organizations in all 50 states and more than 300 party members serving in elected positions in 36 states. "I do consider it very flattering," Johnson said by telephone before his speech, referring to the draft movement. "But I'm a Republican, and I'm not going to run for president." If third-party candidates remain little more than outlets for the disenfranchised and frustrated at the national level, they have attained more serious status, especially the Green Party, here in New Mexico. Johnson owes his political ascension in part to the success of a Green candidate, Roberto Mondragon, in 1994. Mondragon, a former Democrat, won 10 percent of the votes, enabling Johnson to defeat the incumbent governor, Bruce King, a Democrat, by 50 percent to 40 percent. Rep. Heather A. Wilson, a freshman Republican from Albuquerque, also won because of a Green Party candidate. Last year she defeated Phillip J. Maloof, a Democrat, by six percentage points while the Green candidate, Robert L. Anderson, won 10 percent of the vote. Six Greens hold public office in New Mexico, including City Council members in Sante Fe and Silver City. "The Greens got their biggest boost ever in 1994," said F. Chris Garcia, a political scientist at the University of New Mexico. "That was their biggest splash, and the ripples continue to roll across New Mexico. It gave people the idea, 'We can do something,' although in almost all cases they have kept Democrats from winning." Whether Johnson runs under the Libertarian banner or not, the party plans to choose its presidential nominee at a convention next summer in Anaheim, Calif. Here in New Mexico, Libertarians are busy registering voters. They need about 1,000 more to qualify as a major state party, which would guarantee that Libertarian candidates would be listed on state and local ballots. October 7, 1999Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company Governor Gary Johnson's Home Page Libertarian Party Governor Not Interested In Libertarian Run - 10/06/99  
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