Getting to Know Gary Johnson

Lilian in front of Serb Hall
Lilian in front of Serb Hall

Lilian outside Serb Hall in Milwaukee

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is running for president on the Libertarian ticket. Yet with the election only two months away, Johnson says that 70 percent of Americans don't even know who he is. So he is trying to draw more attention to his candidacy by introducing himself to voters around the country.

On September 1, Johnson spoke at Serb Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He shared his views on issues ranging from immigration, education, and national security to legalizing marijuana. Johnson described Libertarians as individuals who are “fiscally conservative and socially inclusive.” They also favor a limited role for the government.


Running as a third-party candidate is a longshot. Presidential elections in the U.S. are typically two-party races. Since the mid-1800s, every president has been either a Republican or a Democrat.

This year, however, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have unusually low favorability ratings. According to a recent poll by The Washington Post and Fox News, 68 percent of voters think that Clinton is dishonest, 89 percent say that Trump is “hot-headed," and 60 percent aren’t ready to vote for either candidate. 

Some people now wonder if a third-party candidate could be a major player in the November 8 election. Johnson, who thinks that the answer is yes, wants to participate in the upcoming presidential debates. In order to do so, he must win support from at least 15 percent of voters in five national polls. According to one recent poll, he only has support from 9 percent of U.S. voters.


“GA-RY! GA-RY!” 

Johnson began his career as a Republican. Starting in 1994, he served two terms as governor of New Mexico. His vice-presidential running mate, former Republican William “Bill” Weld, was the governor of Massachusetts from 1991 until 1997. Both men pride themselves on having served in blue (Democratic) states and worked with people on both sides of the aisle.

Johnson certainly seemed popular at Serb Hall, which was full to the point of bursting for his appearance. Several people in the extremely enthusiastic crowd held up signs that read, “You In?” and chanted, “GA-RY, GA-RY!”

The people I interviewed ranged from avid supporters to those curious to know more about the candidate. Cathi Probst of West Allis, Wisconsin, said that she was “very interested in listening to another voice [beside Clinton's or Trump's].”

Twelve-year-old Ellie Rugledge described Johnson's speech as “awesome.” She attended the rally with her mother, Kate. “My daughter will someday inherit the debt we’ve accumulated,” Kate said. “At almost $20 trillion, that’s too much.”

Will Johnson be invited to participate in the first presidential debate at Hofstra University on September 26? He will have to win over several more voters. Expect to see him out on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead.

Photo courtesy of the author