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Gary Johnson Wins Libertarian Party Nomination For President

After dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination for President in December, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson quit the GOP altogether and began pursuing the Libertarian Party’s nomination instead. Today at the Libertarian Party’s convention in Las Vegas, that effort paid off with a first ballot victory:

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is campaigning to win the White House as a Libertarian after receiving scant attention in the Republican presidential race.

Johnson easily became the party’s presidential nominee at the Libertarian national convention in Las Vegas on Saturday. He hopes to appeal to voters fed up with the traditional two-party system this November.

Johnson was a longshot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination when he announced in December that he would instead pursue the Libertarian ticket.

He won 74 percent of the vote on the first ballot in Las Vegas, an unusual showing of support. In 2008, Libertarian delegates needed six rounds of voting to pick a presidential nominee.

As with previous Libertarian nominees, Johnson has said that he hopes to garner the 15% in national polling that would entitle him to an invitation to the national debates that will be televised in September and October (although whether the major parties would agree even to his presence even if he met that criteria is by no means certain). Recent national polling has placed him as high as 6%, and a recent state poll in Montana had him as high as 8%. However, it’s probable that much of this support is based as much on voter dissatisfaction with the major party candidates as it is reflective of support for Johnson himself.

This is the second cycle in a row in which the LP has nominated a former Republican elected official as their Presidential candidate. In 2008, it was former Congressman Bob Barr, a selection that actually ended up causing some controversy inside the LP itself. Johnson is likely to be a far more popular choice largely because he’s a candidate that the party has been pursuing as a potential nominee ever since he served as Governor of New Mexico. Additionally, Johnson’s record as Governor was far more compatible with libertarian ideas than Barr’s record in Congress, although Barr had largely renounced much of that record by the time he ran for the LP nomination for years ago.

I don’t operate under the belief that Johnson has any real chance of winning the election, and I honestly don’t think that he does either given his experience in electoral politics. Heck, his goal of 15% of the vote in a national polls is an incredibly high bar considering the fact that no Libertarian Party nominee has gotten above the roughly 1,000,000 votes that the Ed Clark/David Koch (yes, that David Koch) ticket got in the 1980 election, largely thanks to a national advertising campaign that Koch paid for out of his own pocket. At the same time, though, it’s encouraging to see the Libertarians actually nominating candidates with a real political resume, and the possibility of reaching out to groups dissatisfied with both candidates on issues like the drug war and same-sex marriage (Johnson supports same-sex marriage, Obama and Romney do not). Getting real attention for a campaign of ideas? Yea I’d be happy with that.

Update: Jim Gray, a former Superior Court Judge from Orange County, California who most recently ran as the Libertarian Party Senate nominee against Barbara Boxer, won the LP nomination for Vice-President, which isn’t surprising given that Johnson had endorsed him before the party convention started. I don’t know much about Gray, but he’s fairly solid on drug war and criminal justice issues.

Here’s a recent interview he did with Reason:

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    As I Democrat I wish him great success, especially in Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    The anti-Nader. This won’t help Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. Tillman says:

    Hopefully he’s a good campaigner. I’d really like to see him at the debates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    I like Johnson. His tendency to take principled stands is what got him exiled by the Republicans, and it would be nice to hear somebody talking about things like civil and Constitutional liberties, since both primary parties appear to have abandoned those things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  5. Yay, someone I can vote for!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Ben says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Yay, someone I can vote for!

    Ditto.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Pete says:

    @Ben: Former Republican; double ditto. Reynolds, can’t believe you would vote for anybody in either of the mainstream parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Gromitt Gunn says:

    If Johnson and Gray can make it respectable for anti War on Drugs and anti War on Terror views to get an airing, then I wish them all the best. My dollars and GOTV will still go for Pres. Obama, but I do genuinely wish them the best in challenging him on those civil libertarian grounds where he is much weaker than I would like.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Reynolds, can’t believe you would vote for anybody in either of the mainstream parties.

    As opposed to just throwing his vote away…of course, living in California, it doesn’t really matter who he votes for…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. superdestroyer says:

    I guess with the coming election turning into a rout, wonk wannabes will have to find new ways to discuss a boring election. Focusing on third parties will probably be one way that wonks will try to distract themselves from focusing on policy or governance of the current administration.

    My guess is that bloggers like Doug will make a lot more post about Libertarians, Palin, O.Donnell, or Rush Limbaugh than about what could occur in a second Obama Administration

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Sadly true. I’m pretty sure Obama will carry California.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Herb says:

    At the same time, though, it’s encouraging to see the Libertarians actually nominating candidates with a real political resume, and the possibility of reaching out to groups dissatisfied with both candidates on issues like the drug war and same-sex marriage

    As a pro-gay marriage and anti-drug war liberal, I really wish I could muster the same enthusiasm for Johnson’s run, but the feeling is that he’s going to be even less of a factor as a LP candidate than he was in the GOP primaries.

    Pro-gay marriage and anti-drug war is all good and great, but once he starts talking about the usual Libertarian hobby-horses, watch people’s eyes start to go glassy. “You had me until you started talking about closing the post office…..”

    For what it’s worth…in Colorado’s legislature, a Democrat-sponsored civil union bill is about to make it to the governor’s desk. Every Democrat and a few key Republicans support it. There are no LP members in the legislature, so how they would vote is a hypothetical.

    While I applaud the LP’s stance on the issue, their actual record barely exists. Truth is, there is already a party doing the heavy lifting on gay rights issues…and it’s not the LP. Let’s give credit where it’s due, eh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  13. Ben says:

    @Herb:

    Oh give me a break. Dems will get some respect when they start actually supporting gay marriage en masse, starting with Obama. Civil Unions are a nice polite way to say that gay people are still second-class citizens. Separate-but-”equal”, yet again has become acceptable.

    And the way that the Democrats have abandoned civil liberties in order to support Obama makes me taste bile. Obama wouldn’t have get my vote a second time no matter who the LP put out there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. @Herb:

    While I applaud the LP’s stance on the issue, their actual record barely exists.

    By that logic, one should never vote for anyone but the incumbent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Herb says:

    @Ben:

    “Dems will get some respect when they start actually supporting gay marriage en masse,”

    Thou shalt not let the perfect be the enemy of thy good.

    Thanks to Republicans, “marriage” has a constitutional definition in this state. Civil unions may seem like second best, but I didn’t write the rules.

    @Stormy Dragon: Not sure I follow. Is it because the challenger has no record?

    If so, not what I meant. I meant to compare what the Dems (as a party) have done for gay rights and what the LP has done for gay rights, and one is all talk and the other has a few feathers in their hat. That’s all I’m saying.

    Who people vote for is up to them and how they feel about that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Ben says:

    @Herb:

    Regardless of whether certain states have passed repugnant laws or amendments like that, why are there still democrats (including our president) who don’t at least advocate the legality of gay marriage? Are there laws against advocating things now? Or is just that Democrats are willing to sell out gays and lesbians by hemming and hawing and equivocating on the issue just to get elected?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Herb says:

    @Ben:

    “why are there still democrats (including our president) who don’t at least advocate the legality of gay marriage?”

    There are plenty of Democrats who do support gay marriage, though.

    I mean, in theory, we have this third party that has a “best” position on the issue, but in practice, no one in that party holds office. And of the parties that do hold office, one is overtly hostile to gay people and the other is more tolerant.

    Which party did Gary Johnson belong to all those years?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Rob in CT says:

    I plan to toss a vote his way. CT will go to Obama easily. It gives me the luxury of a protest vote (civil liberties).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0