Former Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson kicked off a fundraising tour through the Yellowhammer state in downtown Mobile this week.
Stopping at The Bull restaurant, Johnson spoke to a small crowd about his past in politics and his future plans with the non-profit organization Our American Initiative, which he serves as the honorary chairman of.
Johnson served two terms as the Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, which he said was no small feat for a Republican in a state that’s 2-1 Democrat.
When he left office, New Mexico was one of four states with a balanced budget.
“I would love to run for president again, but I’m not an announced candidate at this time,” Johnson said, as spoke to a crowd of around 50. “But, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I was uniquely qualified to be the next present of the United States.”
Despite the confident rhetoric, Johnson hasn’t turned his attention to campaigning for 2016 yet, and is currently focusing on raising money for Our American Initiative.
The organization is currently in the process of suing the Commission of Presidential Debates, which organizes the televised debates in the general presidential election.
“The presidential debate commission is made up of Democrats and Republicans and they have no interest in seeing a third party candidate on stage,” Johnson said. “It’s not being billed as the two parties showcasing their candidates. It’s being billed as ‘the’ presidential election.”
Our American Initiative is trying to get third party candidates allowed in the debate if they’re on the ballot in enough states to possibly receive the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
By that standard, Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein would have been included in the 2012 Presidential Debates.
“At the very least, we think it would be imminently fair for any candidate who has a mathematical possibility to win the presidency to be included in the national polls,” Johnson said.
The former governor said he returned to politics for the 2012 election because of his growing concern over the direction of the country’s fiscal policy.
Johnson, who left the Republican Party after the 2012 primary election, said any political group comes with its own baggage.
“As a Libertarian, I have the least amount of explaining to do,” he said. “I’m as fiscally conservative as any politician you’ve ever heard of, but I am a flaming liberal when it comes to civil liberties.”
Johnson said numerous polls have shown that combination of fiscal conservative politics and liberal social politics is reflective of the majority of the country’s viewpoint.
Leigh LaChine, chairman of Alabama’s Libertarian Party, said Johnson represents the best of both Democrats and Republicans.
“Ten years ago, they called us all crazy,” LaChine said. “We just want to give people the freedom to live their lives. People are figuring out that we don’t all have tin foil hats on our heads.”
Libertarianism has gained notable momentum nationally, and LaChine said the party has even seen growth in deep red states like Alabama.
According to LaChine, there are approximately 8,00-12,000 Libertarians in Alabama, but that number is hard to measure because the party doesn’t officially register its members.
The party has only qualified for ballot access in Jefferson County this year, but LaChine is hoping for a statewide ballot by 2016.
As for Johnson, he said he has no problem with social conservatism.
“It’s okay for anyone to be a social conservative, but you should work to change other people’s lives with the example you set,” he said. “If you try to make those ideals public policy, you end up criminalizing activity you would consider to be bad choice. That puts people in jail who would otherwise be taxpaying, law-abiding citizens.”
Johnson is continuing Our American Initiative’s fundraising campaign throughout the country, and the avid sportsman said there’s no quit in him.
“If there was anyone else saying what I’m saying, I don’t know that I would be here, but there isn’t,” he said. “Yet, it’s the most reflective of the country as a whole.”
Following the 2012 election, Johnson was identified as the candidate most American’s views aligned with in an isidewith.com poll that compiled more than 3.5 million voters from all 50 states.
According to Johnson, he ran his campaign with 1/100th of the funding and media coverage of frontrunners Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but still managed to get 1.3 million votes, more than any Libertarian candidate in history.
“I have to admit I was disappointed with 1.3 million votes, but, as I’ve been told since day one, don’t discount 1.3 million people voting for the candidate they wanted as opposed to those voting for the lesser of two evils,” he said.