Former New Mexico governor and two-time presidential candidate Gary Johnson visited Roswell Thursday, the latest stop in his nine-week campaign for the U.S Senate.
Johnson was in Roswell to meet with supporters a week after he announced that he would enter the New Mexico Senate race as the Libertarian party’s candidate.
Johnson will face first-term Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Mark Rich, an Albuquerque-based contractor, in November. Johnson entered the race after the Libertarian Party’s initial candidate, New Mexico Public Lands Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, withdrew and ended his campaign.
New Mexico’s Republican governor from 1995 to 2003, Johnson ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary to be his party’s candidate for president in 2012. He was the Libertarian party’s nominee for president in 2016, receiving 3 percent of the vote nationally and 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico.
Johnson’s entry has brought new interest to the Senate race. A new Emerson Poll shows Johnson coming in second behind Heinrich and 11 points ahead of Rich.
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A run for the U.S. Senate is something Johnson, a self-described “off-the-charts fiscal conservative” said he had never before been interested in. “It came completely out of the blue,” he said.
Though as a Libertarian his top aim will be to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, the chance to be a pivotal vote in a closely divided senate is what Johnson said drew him into the race.
“If New Mexico elects anyone to the U.S. Senate other than a Republican or a Democrat, arguably that person is going to be the swing vote in the Senate,” he said.
Republicans now hold 52 seats in the senate, while Democrats have 49 seats, including two independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. If elected, Johnson would be the first Libertarian ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
He said if elected he would not look to caucus with either the Democrats or Republicans. A fiscal conservative who is liberal on social issues, Johnson said he would instead find agreement and disagreement with people on both sides of the aisle.
“I don’t care what anybody does with their lives, they should be able to make their own decisions regarding their own happiness, whatever that is, as long as those decisions don’t adversely effect others or put others in harms way, that is my position,” he said.
Johnson said if he was in the U.S. Senate, knowing what he knows he would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, a U.S. District Court of Appeals Judge, is President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that became vacant in July when Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy retired.
He added that from what he has seen, there is nothing in Kavanaugh’s record that makes Johnson doubt that Kavanaugh would uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Johnson said he has a mixed view of Trump’s time in office. He likes how Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and applauds the administration for moving to roll back rules and regulations.
“If rules and regulations simply add time and money to our lives, but don’t really accomplish anything, why have them?” he asked.
He said he disagrees with Trump in other areas, saying he is not doing enough to cut federal spending, and is at odds with him on Trump’s talk of slapping tariffs on goods from foreign markets and on immigration, including the construction of a wall on the southern border.
“Hardworking New Mexican immigrants — that should be promoted not discouraged. So we should make it easy as possible for somebody to get a work visa that wants a work visa,” he said.
If he does pull off an upset in November, Johnson said that as a senator he will not be shy when it comes to politically controversial issues such as overhauling Social Security and Medicare.
“ I am not going to Washington to be a wallflower,” he said. “I am 65 years old, I don’t have the time for it.”